Week 5 brings yet another week of questions for the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons. With a quarter of the season gone, the team has already lost as many games as it did in 2012 and hasn't shown much to suggest that a turnaround is imminent.
In addition to Atlanta's struggles in the red zone, the Falcons have been plagued by inconsistent play along their offensive and defensive lines and coverage breakdowns in the secondary.
As frustrating as the month of September was for the Falcons, Atlanta has no choice but to prepare for the second quarter of its season that begins on Monday night against the 2-2 New York Jets.
We'll begin our game week coverage with our weekly look at the NFC South standings, the Falcons injury report and the phases of Atlanta's game that demand the most improvement moving forward.
NFC South Standings
|Team||Overall Record||NFC South Record||NFC Record||Week 4 Result||Week 5 Opponent|
|New Orleans Saints||4-0||2-0||3-0||W, 38-17 vs. Dolphins||at Bears|
|Carolina Panthers||1-2||0-0||1-1||BYE||at Cardinals|
|Atlanta Falcons||1-3||0-1||1-1||L, 30-23 vs. Patriots||vs. Jets|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||0-4||0-1||0-2||L, 13-10 vs. Cardinals||BYE|
At this point, the Falcons' primary concern should be getting back to .500 because even with a best-case scenario (i.e. an October win streak), the Falcons probably won't be in position to make a move on the division lead until the Saints come to Atlanta in late November.
That being said, with the Falcons in danger of falling four games behind the Saints, Monday's game against the Jets is a must-win if Atlanta wants to give itself a realistic chance to defend its NFC South title.
|Player||Injury||Anticipated Return Date|
|Kroy Biermann||Achilles Tear||Out for Season|
|Bradie Ewing||Shoulder||Out for Season|
|Sean Weatherspoon||Foot||Week 11 at the earliest|
|Sam Baker||Ankle||Likely to miss Week 5 vs. Jets|
via AtlantaFalcons.com, AJC.com, ESPN.com and NFL.com
Falcons head coach Mike Smith has stated that he will give an injury update on Thursday, and Falcons fans are hoping to get some good news about Steven Jackson, Asante Samuel and Akeem Dent. Of those three players, the Falcons probably missed Samuel the most against the Patriots.
What Needs to Improve
It's beginning to sound like a broken record, but Atlanta has lost three games this year because of its inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, its offensive line play and its defense's troubling tendency to give up big plays.
Beyond that, the Falcons must find the kind of swagger that they haven't displayed for a full game since last December's 34-0 rout of the New York Giants at the Georgia Dome.
If Atlanta doesn't find any answers before Monday night, this once promising 2013 campaign may be headed for an implosion.