Roundtable: Bye Week

1. What's the most encouraging takeaway from the 2015 season so far?

Andrew Hirsh: The running game on both sides of the ball is fantastic. Led by Devonta Freeman, the Falcons have reestablished themselves as a one of the NFL's best rushing teams and have achieved the kind of offensive balance not seen in about three years. On defense, the revamped front seven has made life difficult for lots of talented RBs. Only the Jets have a better rushing yards against average than the Falcons (88.9). 

Kelsey Conway: The run game. Devonta Freeman, the Falcons' offensive line and fullback Patrick DiMarco have been outstanding so far this season. What Atlanta has been able to produce in their rushing attack has helped the offense as a whole in a number of ways that is big reason to why the team is 6-3.

Jay Adams: For me, it'd have to be just the overall attitude of the team. Dan Quinn has instilled so much energy and positivity into the locker room that it's hard not to notice just how upbeat everything is on and off the field. There's a real sense of brotherhood and family that's been created here and it's already played a role in a handful of wins this season. I think that will continue to be a trend as we move forward.

2. What's one area of improvement you believe the Falcons need to focus on moving forward?

AH: Red zone efficiency. Atlanta is middle-of-the-pack when it comes to scoring touchdowns inside the 20 (60.61 percent) but have only found the pay dirt during 36 percent of red zone drives in their last three games. The offense has little trouble moving the ball in the middle of the field; if they can start punching it in at higher rate, it'll start to look like one of the league's best attacks.

KC: The pass rush. Atlanta ranks 31st in the NFL with only 10 sacks. I'd like to see this improve and I have full belief that it will. A solid pass rush combined with the Falcons' run defense, this defense could be a real problem for teams to deal with. 

JA: At this point, it's becoming more dangerous on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons were averaging upwards of 32 points per game early in the season and that average dropped to around 17 in the last few weeks. Finding the end zone with the weapons on hand will be crucial for a second half of the season that's looking more and more challenging each week.

3. Who, in your mind, has been Atlanta's MVP so far?

AH:Devonta Freeman. After missing all of preseason and beginning the year as a backup, Freeman has been nothing short of stellar since assuming the starting job. His 721 rushing yards are only second to Adrian Peterson; his nine rushing touchdowns are three more than anyone else; and his 11 total TDs rank first, as well. 

KC:Personally, I believe this is a toss up between Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. I am going to give Jones the award based off Sunday's game and milestone he reached. For the third time in his career, the WR has recorded 1,000 receiving yards or more. Through nine games, Jones has 80 Receptions for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns. His reliability even when injured is nothing short of remarkable, and that's why he is my MVP vote. JA: It's tough to argue against Devonta Freeman. He's been such a great surprise this year and his future looks ridiculously bright. We knew that he was a star talent when the Falcons drafted him, but early in the season, it looked like Tevin Coleman was in the driver's seat. When Freeman got a chance to take the spotlight, he did it in such a decisive way. He's exciting not just for right now, but for years to come. He seems like the type that could re-write the record books.

4. What's the biggest key to a successful playoff push?

AH: The biggest key is to limit self-inflicted wounds. Dan Quinn's team has a lot of talent, and if it can play with more discipline than its opponent, Atlanta will be tough to beat. 

KC: For the offense to get back to putting up big numbers like they did the first few weeks of the season. The Falcons are 5-0 when they score 24 points or more. I think that stat is very important and very telling of the recent struggles.

JA: Getting back to their winning ways. The 5-0 start was fantastic and the team has hit a few bumps in the road since then. The bye week could serve to get some key players rested and give the coaching staff a chance to evaluate where things are right now. I expect the Falcons to be very much in the playoff conversation as we've got a lot of football left to play.

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