ATLANTA — Then there was one.
The Atlanta Falcons (6-0) woke up Monday as the NFL's last unbeaten team, the distinction all to themselves after Green Bay knocked off Houston the night before. They'll be able to savor their status, too, with a bye coming up and nothing on the schedule the rest of the week.
Coach Mike Smith broke with the way he's done things in previous years, deciding to give his players the entire week off rather than holding a couple of practices. Several dozen players came in to the training complex the day after a 23-20 victory over Oakland, but that was merely to get treatment and maybe look at a little film.
Otherwise, they're free to go.
See you next Monday.
"It's very important for us — the players and the coaches — to disconnect a little bit," Smith said.
The decision had nothing to do with the Falcons' glittering record. The coach graphed out this schedule back in April when he saw where the bye week fell, essentially right in the middle of the 20-week schedule (counting the four preseason games).
"I try to let the guys know well in advance what the schedule is going to be," Smith said. "This is just the way we wanted to approach it this year. You don't get a whole lot out of those two practices during the bye week. It's like pulling teeth. It's like the last day before Christmas vacation."
The Falcons are off to the best start in franchise history and already hold a commanding lead in the NFC South — 3½ games ahead of Tampa Bay, 4½ ahead of both defending division champion New Orleans and Carolina.
But Smith doesn't want his team thinking about loftier goals, such as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs or even winning the franchise's first Super Bowl championship, although being the last team to lose in any given season is often a good title omen.