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Falcons riding high, hope to keep it up against 49ers
Falcons Saints Footba Heal
Atlanta Falcons place kicker Matt Bryant (3) celebrates his game winning field goal with defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (95) in overtime against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 26. - photo by Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons are soaring after their overtime victory in New Orleans. With the Browns up next week, this is a good time to make strides, something their defense must do for Atlanta to be a true championship contender. The offense, especially NFC receiving leader Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, looks dynamic.
    San Francisco looks disorganized and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was fired Monday.

Baltimore (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0)
    Anyone who likes brutal, in-the-trenches football needs to pay attention to this AFC North confrontation. The Steelers' defense has resembled the best versions of the Steel Curtain, and an unbeaten record before Ben Roethlisberger returns from a four-game suspension is within reach.

Indianapolis (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2)
    Here's an ominous thought: Peyton Manning is off to the best start of his 13-year career, which already includes an unprecedented four MVP awards. For the first time, he has three straight games with at least 300 yards passing AND three TD throws. With the emergence of Austin Collie, Manning's receiver corps is as deep and versatile as ever, particularly if Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez get healthy.

Denver (1-2) at Tennessee (2-1)
    It took the Titans until Nov. 8 to win their second game a year ago. They were somewhat gifted No. 2 by the Giants last weekend, but they got RB Chris Johnson back on track. The Titans' secondary will be challenged by the top passing attack, yardage-wise, in the league.

Detroit (0-3) at Green Bay (2-1)
    Can any team be angrier with itself than the Packers, who set a club record with 18 penalties on Monday night in handing the game to their archrival, the Bears? Don't look for Green Bay to be so inept or charitable again, but the Packers do need to find a running game. So far, they have gained 759 yards in the air and a paltry 286 on the ground.
    Detroit's sieve-like defense (30th overall, last against the run) could make the Packers a healthy bunch.

Carolina (0-3) at New Orleans (2-1)
Just what the Panthers need after their second successive 0-3 start: a trip to the Superdome against the defending league champions who come off blowing a game to Atlanta.
    The Saints have not been very regal thus far and easily could be 0-3. Their defense wore down against the Falcons, so if Carolina can get its once-potent running game going, maybe the Panthers can test New Orleans.

New York Jets (2-1) at Buffalo (0-3)
    At least the Bills didn't send Trent Edwards over Niagara Falls in a barrel. They did cut the man who began the season as their starting QB — he's now in Jacksonville — and added to the spiraling sensation in Buffalo.
    Ralph Wilson Stadium is not a comfortable place for the Jets, who have looked particularly good on offense the last two weeks as the shackles were removed from second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. New York is only 4-5 there since the 1999 season, the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

Chicago (3-0) at New York Giants (1-2)
    OK, if the Packers aren't the angriest team, then it has to be the Giants. They outgained Tennessee by 200 yards and never punted, yet were routed 29-10.
    Chicago is doing plenty defensively. The NFC's only unbeaten team, the Bears are first against the run and, in DE Julius Peppers, have added a game-changer to LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

Arizona (2-1) at San Diego (1-2)
    Struggling division winners from 2009 who have undergone massive roster shifts and been damaged by them.
    The Cardinals are tied atop the NFC West only because Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski uncharacteristically missed a gimme field goal at the end of last Sunday's game. The visitors miss QB Kurt Warner maybe more than any team misses a departed player, and they will be without WR Steve Breaston this week (knee surgery).

Cincinnati (2-1) at Cleveland (0-3)
    Another defeat, close or otherwise, might send the Mangini countdown into orbit. Browns coach Eric Mangini says he sees progress, but if Cleveland doesn't get some Ws to go along with it, he soon could be watching future progress from elsewhere.
    Cincinnati likes nothing better than Ohio Rivalry wins, dating back to the days Paul Brown founded the Bengals years after being fired by the Browns.

Houston (2-1) at Oakland (1-2)
    Were the Texans exposed by Dallas last week, or was it just too big a stage for a developing team? A misstep in the Black Hole would bring out all the doubters.
    The Raiders still can't believe they lost at Arizona and a win keeps them viable in the AFC West with division games upcoming in three of the next five weeks.

Seattle (2-1) at St. Louis (1-2)
    After grabbing their first win of the season — it took St. Louis until Nov. 1 to manage a victory in 2009 — the Rams probably will need Steven Jackson in the lineup to have a shot at two in a row. The standout running back is day to day with a groin strain for which he received acupuncture treatments.
    Seattle will have Leon Washington in the lineup, which means the Rams should not kick to him. Ever.

Washington (1-2) at Philadelphia (2-1)
    Donovan McNabb can expect some good vibes from the folks in the City of Brotherly Love before his Washington Redskins take on the Eagles on Sunday. Once they kick off, though, Michael Vick will be the local hero and McNabb simply another visiting quarterback the fans in the Linc want to see planted into the turf.
    McNabb's outgoing personality, infectious smile and thrilling unpredictability were fine in Philly while he was winning, and he did a lot of winning in his 11 seasons as an Eagle. McNabb was 92-49-1 in the regular season.