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Smith wants to keep Falcons’ expectations level

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — No matter how much Atlanta coach Mike Smith tries to level expectations, he knows that the leadership of quarterback Matt Ryan and the arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have made the Falcons heavy favorites to win the NFC South.

A 27-3 victory at San Diego gave the Falcons a two-game lead over Carolina and Tampa Bay in the division, but Smith doesn't buy that Atlanta has maximized its potential.

Smith says his team still has plenty of concerns to address even though Ryan leads the NFL in touchdowns and passer rating and Nolan's defense ranks first with 11 takeaways and fifth in scoring.

The Falcons (3-0) host Carolina (1-2) this week.

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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