LEADOFF: Experts say Falcons are ‘for real’ this time

Denver quarterback Paxton Lynch is under pressure from the Falcons’ Vic Beasley on Sunday. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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Denver quarterback Paxton Lynch is under pressure from the Falcons’ Vic Beasley on Sunday. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Good morning.LEADOFF brings you today's early buzz in Atlanta sports.

Victories over last season's two Super Bowl teams on consecutive Sundays have a lot of folks praising the Falcons. Here are five samples:

1. Greg Bedard wrote on SI.com that the Falcons "are officially for real."

“It was one thing for Atlanta to start 3–1, even with an impressive victory against the Panthers,” he wrote. “After all, this was a Falcons team that started 5–0 last season and finished 8–8. But for Atlanta to go on the road, into one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and emerge with a dominating 23–16 victory that wasn’t nearly that close? Oh, the Falcons are very much for real and have to be viewed as one of the NFC favorites, along with the Vikings (5–0) and Seahawks (3–1). It was somewhat impressive for the Falcons’ defense to shut down the Broncos, although it was somewhat expected with rookie QB Paxton Lynch making his first start for Denver. But the most impressive aspect was Atlanta’s offense against that defense in that setting.”

2. From near the top of USA Today's list of 40 things we learned in Week 5 of the NFL season: "2. Hey, how come nobody told us this was the season the Falcons might actually be for real?"

3.From NFL.com's Chris Wesseling: "No other team can replicate the NFL's most complementary backfield tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. … Matt Ryan distributes (the ball) like an all-star point guard. Ryan did nothing to jeopardize his standing in the early MVP discussion."

4. CBSSports.com's Will Brinson: "It's early yet, but maybe Madden 17 was onto something after all, because the Atlanta Falcons look capable of winning a Super Bowl five weeks into the season. Those sort of October proclamations are stereotypical of NFL analysis and unfairly lethargic, but after beating the two teams who were in last year's Super Bowl in back-to-back weeks and surging out to 4-1, Atlanta has to be taken seriously."

5. And Peter Schrager offered this enthusiastic take on NFL Network: "I'm already sold. This is a real deal team. … Atlanta Falcons, you are for real." Then he added: "Go beat Seattle and you're really for real."

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This week's Associated Press Top 25 college football poll includes seven SEC teams and five ACC teams. It includes three teams from the state of Florida and two from the state of Alabama. The state of Georgia is unrepresented.

Another thing about the poll: Alabama is ranked No. 1 and Michigan No. 4. If those teams are ranked in those positions by the College Football Playoff selection committee two months from now, they would meet in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl national semifinal game on New Year’s Eve. Long way to go, of course.

ExploreCheck out Ken Sugiura’s peek inside the process of selecting the playoff teams.

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Headliners: David O'Brien reports that Brian Snitker is expected to shed the "interim" tag and become the Braves' next manager. Barring any unexpected development, O'Brien reports, an announcement will come within the next day or two, when there aren't as many baseball playoff games as Monday's three. It's a quaint, decades-old MLB tradition to try to steer such announcements away from postseason play. … Don't miss part two of the Jeff Schultz/Zach Klein "We Never Played the Game" podcast's interview with Arthur Blank, who candidly discusses the long-term future of Falcons ownership and the abrupt exit of Bobby Petrino as Falcons coach.

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Check back early tomorrow for news, notes and links in Atlanta sports.