Excitement from Sunday's victory over the Miami Dolphins hasn't waned as the week has moved forward. There's a renewed optimism about a team that has won two straight and three of four, somehow landing on the playoff bubble as we near midseason.
While that isn't reason to celebrate, it's cause to acknowledge the Falcons are in far better shape than this time last year or this time the year before. That in itself means something.
The questions are pouring in about the status of this team, what has gone right and what must be better to keep the wins coming against competition better than they've recently faced.
Let's get to them in Wednesday's edition of Bair Mail:
Jim R from Roanoke, Ala.
Pitts on course for `Rookie of the Year`? Anybody else even close?
Bair: Let's start the answer by saying this: Kyle Pitts has been awesome thus far this year, especially over the last month. His impact in this season's three wins is invaluable. He's an elite talent capable of remarkable things and is already setting records for rookie tight ends.
Okay, preamble over. But..after all that said, Pitts is not the frontrunner for offensive rookie of the year. True story. That's how good Cincinnati receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been. He has 754 yards and six touchdowns through seven games. In a word: wow.
Also, voters love quarterbacks. That puts New England's Mac Jones in the running as well. Trevor Lawrence could be right there if he gets hot. So could Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris.
While Pitts could well end up taking the award, Chase is the early frontrunner in a field that could remain tight as the season moves along.
Charlie C. from Boulder, Colo.
Don't you think that beating the Carolina Panthers could be the catalyst for the falcons to get on a roll and carry that momentum into the playoffs and hopefully help beat the Saints the following week?
Bair: I agree, Charlie, that these next two games are important to the season's overall direction. We have a long way to go before getting serious about playoff talk. I would say I'm not much of a momentum guy in such a week-to-week league, but increased confidence from recent performance could help the Falcons play better down the road. If they can beat Carolina at home, that would set up a pivotal contest against rival New Orleans the following week -- we talk about that extensively on the Falcons Final Whistle podcast -- that would keep the Falcons in the mix as we enter the season's second half.
Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.
Do you see Atlanta being any sort of player at the trade deadline. With some of the injuries on defense could they look to pick up a cheap mid-range player that could come in and help in the rotations.
Bair: I stand by my previous answers that, if this team is active at all before the NFL trade deadline, they'll be sellers. Draft assets are gold for a team in transition, and parting with one for a possible quick fix seems like a stretch. It's tough to expect a decent return on those available. I can't see the Falcons sacrificing any tool to help the team long-term for something that may or may not snag a wild card spot in a super-tight field.
David Hicks from Marshalltown, Iowa
I'm not sure there has been much talk about the solid job that center Matt Hennessy has been doing. He replaced a steady veteran for a salary-limited team. He touches the ball on every offensive play and there has been no issues between the C and QB exchange. His protection has been good too. While not a rookie, he seems to have solidified himself in the position for a second-year player. What do you think about his performance?
Bair: I agree that Matt Hennessy is doing better after a somewhat slow start to the year. I still think he has work to do and must improve, but he's a key part of an improving offensive line. They need to get better blocking for the run, but you're right to say Hennessy's improving and showing potential.
Andrew Newman from Herndon, Va.
Sorry to be Debbie Downer after a nice win but the defense needs help. I understand growing pains but those are not usually this painful. I am pretty sure there will be changes on the defense after this year. … And very little pressure still. I am trying to figure out if they just don't understand the concepts or is it just talent level?
Bair: Dean Pees has been frank about paring his scheme back early this year so his players could master the basics before building upon it in recent weeks. I don't think this is a scheme issue here. The defense needs talent upgrades, especially on the defensive front and off the edge. That'll take some time and draft assets to get the unit going right.
Call for questions
We've got one more mailbag before kicking off against the Panthers. Let's take a close look at that matchup in Friday's Bair Mail. That can only happen with your questions, which you can submit right here.
Take a look at who we think the top 10 players were in this Sunday's game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.