The New York Giants.
The New York Jets.
A Bye week.
The Miami Dolphins.
The Atlanta Falcons are 0-2 and are therefore in no position to take anyone lightly. Indeed, even the mention of the word "soft'' conjures up pot-calling-kettle-black thoughts, because new coach Arthur Smith's start to the 2021 NFL season has been ... mush.
The Week 1 performance in a loss to a mediocre Eagles team was poor. The Week 2 effort on a loss to a superior Bucs team was better, but in the end it became a 23-point blowout.
But, if Atlanta is to "get well soon''? Atlanta better know that "soon'' is now.
Here. comes Falcons Week 3, and it features a Giants team that is 0-2.
Then comes a Week 4 meeting with the 1-1 Washington Football Team, a game that on paper is something less than "winnable.'' (Which is why we didn't mention it in the "Softy Row'' above.)
Then comes the other New York team, a perennial sad-sack with a predictable 0-2 record. ... though the game is in London, making "predictable'' more difficult.
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Then comes a bye - and all the inevitable jokes about how, "at least Atlanta won't lose this week!''
And then it's the Dolphins, who are 1-1 and broken in many ways.
We have played the "winnable'' game in this space before, but doing so now requires some faith in a Falcons team that simply has not earned it. It is incumbent on the Falcons themselves, however, to believe.
To believe they are better than the Giants in New York at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
To believe they are better than the Jets.
To believe they are better than the Dolphins.
To believe they are better than being the butt of bye-week jokes.
And then there is this, regarding simply fighting to some level of 2021 respectability: Following this "soft'' portion of the slate come games against a Panthers team that is 3-0, a Saints team that is almost always a contender, a Cowboys team with a loaded (offensive) roster and a Patriots team with unmatchable playoff pedigree.
The Falcons simply must, starting Sunday, overcome the mush ... because the schedule says that later, they're gonna get smushed.
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