Move over, NFC West. The NFC South is No. 1.
Seven wins were good enough to win the South last year when Carolina beat Atlanta in a winner-take-all regular season finale to clinch the title at 7-8-1.
Now, both teams are 3-0. It’s the only division with two undefeated teams.
The natural overreaction is to call the NFC South the best in football. But not so fast.
The Falcons rallied for a 39-28 win over Dallas on Sunday to become the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after trailing in the fourth quarter of each game. But they’re a couple plays away from 1-2.
Let’s see how well Atlanta fares against teams outside the NFC East. The Falcons beat Philadelphia because Cody Parkey missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter. They beat the New York Giants after a costly fumble in the red zone by Eli Manning. They knocked off the Cowboys without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
New coach Dan Quinn might be the early favorite to win the Coach of the Year Award and Julio Jones looks unstoppable, but these Falcons still have a way to go to compare to the Dirty Birds.
As for the Panthers, they beat the Jaguars (1-2), Texans (1-2) and Saints (0-3) without Drew Brees. Their schedule gets tougher with four of the next five games against Seattle, Indianapolis, Green Bay and the Eagles.
The Falcons and Panthers are certainly the class of their division and one of them should win it with double-digit victories instead of seven. But, they’ve still got to prove they can play with teams like Green Bay (2-0), Arizona (3-0) and even Seattle (1-2).
Here are other overreactions from Week 3:
OVERREACTION: The Steelers can’t win without Big Ben. A knee injury will force Pittsburgh (2-1) to play several games without Ben Roethlisberger.
REALISTIC REACTION: Michael Vick has won plenty of games in the NFL, and he has plenty of talent around to help. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are arguably the best receiver-runner combo in the NFL. Vick still has a strong arm, and he’s still elusive, even at 35 years old.
OVERREACTION: Same old Jets. They fell behind the hapless Eagles 24-0 before rallying only to fall short in a 24-17 loss.
REALISTIC REACTION: It was a classic trap game for New York. The Jets (2-1) had a short week coming off a Monday night win at Indianapolis with a trip to London coming up. They faced a nonconference team desperate to save its season, setting them up for a letdown.
OVERREACTION: The Ravens are done. They blew a fourth-quarter lead and fell to 0-3 with a 28-24 loss at home to Cincinnati (3-0).
REALISTIC REACTION: It will be a tough road for Baltimore, which had been the only existing team to never lose its first three games. But the Ravens aren’t this bad. They had a chance to win each game, and their upcoming schedule is favorable.
OVERREACTION: Derek Carr is the next Rich Gannon. A week after throwing for 351 yards and three TDs in a win over Baltimore, Carr had 314 yards passing and two TDs against Cleveland while leading Oakland (2-1) to its first road win since 2013.
REALISTIC REACTION: Carr is playing well, but Gannon was an NFL MVP who led the team to a Super Bowl. Carr is already better than Terrelle Pryor and JaMarcus Russell, though.
OVERREACTION: Gary Kubiak is a genius. The Broncos are 3-0, their defense is strong and Peyton Manning is playing like his old self.
REALISTIC REACTION: The Broncos beat teams who are a combined 1-7. They’ve always won games they should win. It’s the tough games against playoff teams that give them trouble.
OVERREACTION: Time to jump off the Cowboys’ bandwagon. Dallas blew three 14-point leads in a loss to Atlanta.
REALISTIC REACTION: If Brandon Weeden leads the Cowboys to 28 points every week, they’ll make the playoffs without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
OVERREACTION: The AFC South is the NFC South. The Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans are tied at 1-2.
REALISTIC REACTION: Andrew Luck is 17-2 within the division so the Colts are a good bet to reach 9-7.
OVERREACTION: Bench Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers lost 47-7 to Arizona, and Kaepernick threw four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.
REALISTIC REACTION: Get serious. Blaine Gabbert was 5-22 in Jacksonville. Kaepernick led the 49ers to the NFC championship game twice in three seasons.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org. Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi