Through the seventh week of the NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons currently sit tied for second in the NFC South with a 4-3 record. The Falcons have already tied last year's loss total and are looking at an uphill battle in order to reach the playoffs this season.
However, there are many areas in which the Falcons need to improve if they want to return to the form that they were in last year.
For the majority of the first half of the season, the Falcons have struggled finding an offensive identity, which has resulted in inconsistency from the offense.
Look at the game against Green Bay, when the Falcons jumped to an early lead only to struggle to put up any offense in the second half, eventually losing to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
In Atlanta's past two games, against Carolina and Detroit, the Falcons were able to establish an identity by riding Michael Turner. The Falcons have to continue to do this if they want to continue their winning streak.
Establishing a consistent pass rush is key for the overall success of the Falcons defense. The Falcons spent big bucks this offseason on defensive end Ray Edwards, who has managed only to acquire two sacks.
Edwards and the defensive line need to do a better job pressuring the quarterback not only to stop drives, but also to help out the secondary. A good pass rush is a key ingredient for the Falcons defense.
The Falcons' offensive line has been somewhat plagued with injuries, but they need to do a better job at keeping Matt Ryan on his feet and establishing running lanes for Michael Turner.
Matt Ryan has seen constant pressure this season, and in their last game against the Detroit Lions, Ryan was injured by one of his own linemen because they were pushed back into him, stepping on his ankle and tweaking Ryan's knee.
At times this season, the line has struggled to give Turner running lanes. After the Carolina game, one of the offensive line's best games, Turner was quoted saying that he loved seeing all of the green out in front of him to run through. The Falcons' line needs to replicate this type of a performance game in and game out.
Thus far in the season, Atlanta has struggled when playing 60 minutes of football. It does not matter how many weapons a team has on offense or how scary a team's defense is if they do not play 60 minutes of football.
In all three of Atlanta's losses, they have struggled badly in at least one quarter and the result of the game did not go their way.
Atlanta, fix this problem, whether the fault is in the coaching or the players.
Falcons fans have to be wondering what is going on this season with Matt Ryan. His numbers are way down from a year ago, when he posted a quarterback rating of 91.0 with 28 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.This season, through seven games, Ryan has a rating of 79.5 with only nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Ryan has struggled at times this year to connect with star receiver Roddy White and newcomer Julio Jones. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and if the Falcons want to have a solid second half of the season and make the playoffs, it all starts with the play of Matt Ryan.