The Atlanta Falcons got trounced, 41-17, and the most amazing thing about the game was it really wasn't even that close. The Pittsburgh Steelers had their way with the Falcons for four quarters, and the game never seemed in doubt. Now the Falcons have to wonder if their 2018 can be salvaged.

Count me among the naysayers. This team, as presently constructed, isn't nearly good enough to climb out of this hole, especially in the NFC, and, particularly, in the NFC South. What they thought might be a season where they won their first ever Super Bowl -- and became the first team in history to win it in their home stadium -- is now looking like a complete disaster.

At least the previous two losses were shootouts in which the offense hung in there until the end and the Falcons made it close. This loss in Pittsburgh exposed a more troubling underbelly, with what had been a punchless, toothless, rudderless Steelers defense suddenly looking like the '86 Bears. This was a total meltdown, and with each passing week the Falcons look more and more like a group of players and coaches who, at least on some level, already know that this isn't their year, that it's all slipping away, and that they're not going to get it back. Every time Matt Ryan dragged himself back to his feet and with every pass that bounced off Julio Jones' hands (he was a complete nonfactor, somehow, against this porous secondary) this looked, collectively, like a group with little hope.

The Falcons have now managed to give up an alarming 121 points during their three-game losing streak, a trend that shows no signs of letting up. They give up yards in clumps and bunches, and they are equally inept stopping the run as they are the pass. They are getting run over and beat physically across the board, and even if they manage to get a little healthier down the road it will likely be far too late.

If they have any chance to salvaging things -- and even this might not be enough in the end -- then they absolutely must beat the Bucs and Giants at home before their Week 8 bye. The underlying problem with the Falcons is that, by that bye, they will already have played five home games in what had to be a September and October where they stacked some wins. And with Tampa on the bye this week the Falcons lost ground there. When Graham Gano hit a miracle 60-yard field goal as time expired in Carolina, the clock ticked closer to an early midnight in Atlanta, and if the Saints win at home Monday night the uphill climb only gets steeper.

Now, with the offensive line under siege, and Ryan unable to set up camp comfortably in the pocket, you have to wonder a bit about the consistency of that unit as well. The cold, hard reality is that in their two road games this season, Atlanta's timing and tempo have been all out of whack, and they have struggled to score points. Perhaps they'll find a way to beat up on the slumping Bucs and Giants and find a way not to limp into their bye. Even so, far tougher tests await, and with 10 wins likely needed to sniff the NFC postseason, the odds of them getting to that number already seem quite bleak to me.

Owner Arthur Blank has been biting his tongue and showing restraint, going back to the collapse to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago. This team stays on this trajectory, and I doubt that extends into 2019.

Dolphins fall apart in second half

If the Dolphins' 3-0 start turns out to have been a mirage, and if their current slide is an indication of thing to come, then their second half at Cincinnati may loom large for weeks to come. What appeared like it might be a resounding bounce-back effort after getting trounced in New England instead became one of the stranger collapses we've seen, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill reverting to his early-career form and Miami left with much to contemplate.

Miami bossed this game for the first 30 minutes and seemed in control in the third quarter, with a 17-point lead trimmed to 17-3. Then it all imploded. A silly personal foul on a Bengals punt return gave Andy Dalton life and field position. Another personal foul extended the drive after an incomplete pass on third down and Joe Mixon caught a miracle lob pass, amid a maze of Dolphins, on second-and-12 to make it 17-10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Then Tannehill, who conspired to go 8 for 17 for 71 yards, no TDs and two interceptions in the second half, somehow chucked the ball of his lineman's helmet while trying to throw it away, resulting in a pick-six. He was under duress most snaps by now, with the Dolphins seemingly always in second-and-20, and they quickly punted to set up a Bengals field goal. Then, when he tried to run with the ball on a hopeless third-and-forever scamper, Tannehill was tackled and fumbled for another score.

Just like that they were down 10, and Tannehill threw his final pick in garbage time. With a date with the mighty Bears defense looming next week, that 3-0 start might be erased rather quickly, with the mettle of this group being tested after this difficult setback.

Giants, Broncos need to think about future

Will Eli Manning and Case Keenum still be their teams starting quarterbacks after, say, Thanksgiving? Will there really be any reason to keep running them out there? I honestly don't think so.

The Broncos' and Giants' seasons are trending as I thought they would -- that is, not in the misguided direction the team's took (the future is now!) but in the arc of teams that already should be getting young at quarterback and playing for the future. For much of Sunday, before a late rally, Manning was borderline unwatchable. Passes sailed woefully far from their target, he had trouble completing simple passes, and he threw what at the time looked like a crippling interception after Cam Newton had just thrown one.

Get mad at Odell Beckham all you like for refusing to pretend his quarterback has been even average the last few years. It really is that bad, and at 1-4 this is another team I don't see making any heroic surge. Ownership is clearly overly-averse to change, but getting a look at Kyle Lauletta before the 2019 draft probably makes some sense.

The Broncos are likely to reach that point with Keenum much sooner. This was another largely inept performance from their passing game, and Chad Kelly flashed more than enough in the preseason to earn a look-see given the revolving door this franchise has had at quarterback since Peyton Manning hit the wall way back when.

More Week 5 notes

  • Have I mentioned lately how out-of-sync the Eagles offense looks, and how much pressure Carson Wentz has been under? No better time than the present to reach back out to the Steelers and check back in on Le'Veon Bell. He could be the missing piece to get it going, and he could be addition by subtraction for Pittsburgh
  • Speaking of the Steelers, they had to make a market correct in their lack of balance on offense -- an underlying current to their poor start to the season -- and clearly rookie offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner got the memo on Sunday. Pittsburgh had been running the ball just 29 percent of the time, third-fewest in the NFL, but made a point of feeding James Conner early and stuck with the ground game for a change. Conner carried 11 times for 71 yards in the first half and the Steelers ran the ball 14 times in the opening 30 minutes. They attempted 11 rushes in total in their Week 4 loss to Baltimore and just 13 in their Week 2 loss to Kansas City, and Conner's breakout game couldn't have come at a better time.
  • I really wanted to buy into the Ravens' offense as being a unit that could play at an efficient level on a weekly basis, but at least once a month you get a heavy dose of what the worst aspects of a Marty Mornhinweg/Joe Flacco offense looks like, particularly on the road. (Why they didn't attempt a running play in the final minute of regulation, at the 10, with all their timeouts, against a gassed defense, is beyond me.) Sunday's stinker in Cleveland re-affirmed that. On the bright side, Baltimore's defense is legit and still hasn't given up a second-half touchdown
  • Interested to see if Sam Darnold starts slinging it up for Robbie Anderson deep downfield with more regularity after his monster game.
  • The Jaguars seemed to think they could drop bombs all over the Chiefs defense. Blake Bortles -- who can't play well for two weeks in a row, it seems -- was off with the deep balls. It opened him up to the pass rush and led to turnovers, and the Jags might want to rethink that in the future, because they can't play from behind, especially on the road
  • Denzel Ward is a beast. His blocked field goal might get overlooked in the Browns' first win on a Sunday since 2015, since it happened at the end of the half, but it shouldn't. And he was a stud in coverage again
  • Continue to like the majority of what I see of Josh Rosen.