The Falcons staked a claim to the NFC South on Sunday, dismantling the Panthers defense in a 48–33 win.
Just look at these guady stats: Matt Ryan, 28-of-37 for 503 yards, four touchdowns. Julio Jones, 12 catches for 300 yards, one touchdown. People like to throw around the phrase video-game numbers a lot—those are actually video-game numbers. Those numbers are a 10-year-old running the same play over and over again because they’ve exposed a glitch in the game.
The glitch in the Panthers defense? Their young secondary. Carolina fans should rightly demand answers from management after Sunday’s performance, with the decision to let go of Josh Norman in the off-season now looming larger than ever. Not helping matters is an injury to Cam Newton, who left Sunday’s game to undergo concussion testing. (NFL be damned, Cam’s almost certainly suffered multiple concussions this season after what happened in Denver in Week 1.)
Even with Newton, the Panthers offense wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring against Atlanta. Derek Anderson provided the typical backup boost until two interceptions dashed any faint comeback hopes in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons look like the class of the division right now, but it’s too early to crown them after Atlanta fell apart last season following a 3–0 start. The key has been the performance of Ryan, who has put up massive numbers in every game so far this season. You can make the case for Ryan as the best quarterback of the 2016 season, and he’ll have an absurdly high passer rating after Week 4 to back it up.
As for the Carolina, the Panthers hardly resemble last year’s Super Bowl squad. Carolina could be 2–2 if not for a missed field goal in Week 1, but the Panthers have lost convincingly to back-to-back contenders, which is not a good sign for any serious playoff hopes.