Jaylinn Hawkins #32 of the Atlanta Falcons and Darren Hall #34 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after Hawkins' interception during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers
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The Atlanta Falcons are Blowing Preseason Expectations Out of the Water

The NFL is about halfway through the regular season, so it might be time to check-in on some preseason predictionsDon't look now, but the Atlanta Falcons are leading the NFC South with a record of 4-4 after their overtime thriller against the Carolina Panthers

Going into the season, very few non-Falcons fans likely predicted this to be the case in Week 8, but here they are.

Falcons in First Place

Head coach Arthur Smith of the Atlanta Falcons stands on the sidelines

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The Atlanta Falcons are in first place in the NFC South, and they're doing so with a .500 record. In terms of division leaders, they're the worst based on win percentage, but this is a major step-up for the Falcons based on how their season was likely going to go. Prior to the season, the Falcons were predicted to go 3-14 and be last in the NFC South. Now, the second-half of that prediction is still technically possible, but in just eight weeks, the Falcons already beat their win projection. 

In SI's prediction, there was actually talk about this Falcons team potentially becoming the first ever 0-17 team. Unfortunately for those who love chaos, that prediction is already four wins too late. Prior to the start of this season, Draftkings had the Falcons as the second most-likely team to be 0-17 at +2000 odds— or 20-to-one odds.  On top of that, Arthur Smith was one of the coaches rumored to be on the hot seat if their team didn't perform. 

So, what are the Falcons doing to outperform their preseason predictions?

The Mariota Miracle

Marcus Mariota #1 of the Atlanta Falcons drops back to pass during the first half of the game against the New Orleans Saints

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The biggest surprise is how well Marcus Mariota and the Falcons' offense is doing thus far. As of now, the Falcons rank sixth in offensive points, which is just about the only part of their game that isn't close to the bottom of the league. Among all 32 teams, the Falcons rank sixth in points scored, 25th in offensive yards, 28th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. 

An unaccounted for stat that the Falcons have been notable in is turnovers. The reason they're able to score as many points as they do without having the yards to show for it means they're capitalizing on turnovers well. Through eight weeks, the Falcons have seven collective interceptions and five collective defensive fumble recoveries. So, while the Falcons might not drive down the field time-in and time-out, what they do is turn turnovers into points. 

When the league really only focuses on wins and losses to determine who gets into the postseason, winning ugly doesn't matter if the wins keep stacking up. The Falcons might need to button some things up if they want to make a true playoff run, but for a team that was projected to go 3-14 prior to the season, the Falcons are blowing that prediction out of the water.

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