We’re five weeks into the NFL season, and a few surprise teams are off to hot starts. The Minnesota Vikings lost their starting quarterback and running back to season-ending knee injuries, yet they remain the last undefeated team in the league. The Atlanta Falcons have been on a tear over their last four games, bouncing back strongly after a season-opening loss to the underwhelming Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each team has taken a different approach to their victories. Which of these two NFC surprises is more of a threat as a Super Bowl Contender?
Shahan Kamal: It’s hard for me to look at the Falcons and say they aren’t legit. No disrespect to the Vikings, but the Falcons are on fire, and look to be on their way to comfortably winning their division. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been playing at an elite level this year, leading the league in just about every major passing category, not to mention Julio Jones making his case for best receiver in the league. Even when Jones is being contained, the offense has managed to put points on the board, and the running game has been top notch behind a maligned offensive line. The Falcons’ defense isn’t superb, but they feed off of this high-octane offense and make the necessary plays to win games. The Vikings are undoubtedly a very talented team, but the Falcons just put a thumping on last year’s Super Bowl teams in a few statement wins.
Isaiah Chisolm: The Minnesota defense has kept them undefeated for five straight games. An accomplishment like this cannot be overlooked. Recent history has taught us what an elite defense can do for you. The Seahawks of 2013 shut down the number one offense in Denver that year, and the Denver defense created a No Fly Zone two years later. If defense has been the recipe for success, then there is no doubt that the Vikings are the team to beat in the NFC going forward and it's safe to say with their momentum, it will be tough for any team to match up with them.
Kamal: Although I agree that the Minnesota defense has kept them undefeated, there’s a lot of reason to believe they’re not ready to win the big games. I don’t quite trust the ability of Sam Bradford to win a big game, and there’s no go-to guy on this team. The Falcons have more experience and one of the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league with Ryan and Julio Jones. The Falcons’ offense has enough firepower to put them in a good position in any game, showing this with a strong performance against arguably the best defense in the league in Denver. Atlanta is primed to go far, already steaming their division, whereas Minnesota could lose their lead with one or two poor games. They’re two of the hottest teams in the NFL and I wouldn’t be surprised if Minnesota has to make the trip to Atlanta with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.
Chisolm: Atlanta's defense had one good game at Denver against a backup quarterback. I don't trust defense to be able to hold up each game for the season and can see Atlanta's suffering a few losses because of it. They've conceded 31, 28, 32, and 33 points in their first four games. Minnesota is holding teams under 16 points and Sam Bradford has shown some reliability at quarterback. I think it would be Atlanta traveling to Minnesota for a Super Bowl spot.