Found September 06, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
Here's a capsule preview of the Atlanta Falcons' 2013 season, a much-anticipated campaign full of Super Bowl promise. Three Things To Know 1. Replacing Michael Turner with Steven Jackson will make a huge difference Last season, the Falcons ranked 29th in net rushing yards per game, as Turner, who finished third in the MVP voting in 2008, fell off a proverbial cliff with his production. His yards-per-carry reached a career low of 3.6, which was down almost a yard from the previous season. It speaks volumes that he remains unsigned at this juncture, a sign that his career effectively could be over. His declining ability to run the ball and limited receiving skills greatly hampered an offense taken over by new coordinator Dirk Koetter last season. The Falcons still finished eighth overall in total offense. On the other hand, Jackson, a physical specimen if ever there was one, has not shown the same signs of decline. In the second preseason game (against the Ravens), he ran the ball eight times for 42 yards (5.3 per carry); and in the third exhibition contest, Jackson ran 12 times for 51 yards (4.3). Jackson also showed his receiving ability, catching all three targeted balls against the Titans (for 15 yards). He also caught the only balls thrown to him against Baltimore (13 yards). Given his versatility in the passing game, Jackson should help the Falcons crack the top five in total offense this season and, perhaps, scoring offense, as well. 2. The defense will improve vastly over last season Whether the Falcons use personnel like Kroy Biermann, who appears poised to move from defensive end to outside linebacker, differently or actually transition to a 3-4 front could be a semantic game. Under the guidance of second-year defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Falcons should be more multiple confusing opposing quarterbacks, likle Peyton Manning last season and better-schooled in Nolans philosophy, which should definitely lead to improvement. In some ways, thats not stepping out on a limb. The Falcons ranked 24th in total defense, including 29th against the run. If they can move up in those rankings, say, five spots, it could make a huge difference. Safety Thomas DeCoud, who earned his first berth in the Pro Bowl last season, believes the Falcons defense would be more deceptive and more effective this year. 3. The schedule is extremely difficult Starting off with the Saints on the road is no picnic. Nor is facing the Patriots on a nationally televised home game. Lengthy travel awaits in the form of trips to Arizona (Oct. 27) and San Francisco (Dec. 23). Seattle, a popular pick for the Super Bowl, visits Nov. 10 in a rematch of playoff combatants. What stands out the most is the December schedule: Three of the five games come against playoff teams from last year including road tilts with the NFC champion 49ers and formidable Packers (prime-time start at usually frigid Lambeau Field). Lastly, coming off the short week after making the cross-country trip to San Francisco on a Monday night, the Falcons finish up against Carolina in what could be a key division game. It won't be a cakewalk, by any means. Star Tracker Matt Ryan: In 2012, Ryan led the NFL in completion percentage (68.6) and missed the 5,000-yard passing mark by 281 yards or 17.5 yards per game. Mark it down: The newly minted 100 million man will hit the 5,000-yard mark this season. Tony Gonzalez: The 17-year veteran had some incredible games last season, including a 13-catch, 123-yard, one-TD effort against the Redskins (Week 5). He finished with 93 catches, 930 yards and eight touchdowns. No doubt Gonzalez could play beyond this season, if he desired. Will his production slow down? Dont bet on it. Breakout Players Defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi The second-year player out of Troy and Central Gwinnett High impressed in the preseason with three sacks, including one instance when he recorded a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown all in one play. Look for him in sub packages on passing downs. The Falcons might have finally found the situational pass-rusher that has eluded them for years. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry It appears that Jerry (2009 first-round pick) has finally returned to form after a significant knee injury. Last season, he had been supplanted in the rotation by Vance Walker, who signed a lucrative deal with the Raiders during the offseason. Jerry gives Nolan the luxury of going with a three-man front, along with Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux to play a 3-4 with Biermann and Osi Umenyiora in outside linebacker roles. Stat Watch Pass defense: In the Mike Smith era, the Falcons defense has never finished higher than 20th against the pass. Last season, Atlanta ranked 23rd. If the Falcons can crack the top 20 or, heaven forbid, the half of the league they will vastly improve. Red zone efficiency: The Falcons scored 58.73 percent of the time inside the red zone last season, 4.58 percent above the league average. However, on goal-to-go, they were 66.67 percent, 3.8 percent below the league average. The hope is that Jackson can help them improve there. Giveawaytakeaway ratio: The Falcons are not built to be a top-five defense in terms of total yards allowed. They are built to outscore opponents, to get the occasional stop but most of all to create turnovers. Thats why safeties DeCoud and William Moore both ended up playing in the Pro Bowl last season their ability to cause and recover fumbles and intercept passes. The duo helped the Falcons finish plus-13 in that category, tied for fifth in the NFL. If they do not finish that high again, they will struggle. Three Predictions 1. The Falcons will go 9-7 but playoff glory remains within reach Sticking with my preseason prediction ... the Falcons have the talent and coaching staff to reach the Super Bowl and claim a Lombardi Trophy, but certain pratfalls await. The schedule is one. So is the possibility of injuries to certain key players, such as left corner Asante Samuel, who seems increasingly injury-prone at age 32. Starting two rookie cornerbacks (Robert Alford, Desmond Trufant) is hardly a well-worn path to a Super Bowl. The offensive line is troublesome. One wrong hit on Ryan could upend the whole deal. As with every Super Bowl team, everything has to align in exactly the right way. 2. Jackson will average 4.5 yards per carry and set a personal single-season mark for combined rushing and receiving touchdowns Jacksons best season was 2006 when he rushed for 1,528 yards, caught 90 passes for 806 yards and totaled 16 touchdowns (13 rushing). Dont expect him to surpass the yardage or receptions tallies, but 17 touchdowns is not impossible. Turner rushed for 12 touchdowns, as recently as 2010, and only had one career receiving touchdown last year. Jackson averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2011 but has not been above that mark since his rookie season, playing on many poor St. Louis teams. With so many other weapons on offense than he had with the Rams, 4.5 is within reach. 3. Offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood will start his share of games Second-year right tackle Lamar Holmes just seems to have struggled too much. Plus, it seems unlikely that Atlanta brought a veteran like Trueblood in simply to sit on the bench. The Falcons have had open competitions in the past. If Holmes has a bad game, it could open the door to Trueblood, who has started 84 career games.

Atlanta Falcons News: Falcons Face Saints in Super Dome

The Atlanta Falcons are set to kick off their season on Sunday, as the trip makes the trek to New Orleans to face off with the rival Saints in the Super Dome. The Falcons look poised for a special season in 2013, as the offense looks ready to bring memories of St. Louis’s “Greatest Show on Turf” with big plays from former Ram Steven Jackson, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White...

Matt Ryan as QB2 Headlines our Week 1 NFL Ranks

Finally, the time has arrived and we’re publishing our first set of weekly NFL ranks. Jon Collins’ FantasyPros Week 1 Fantasy Football Ranks are shared below for your convenience, with player notes to help make your lineup decisions. Agree, disagree, looking for advice? Hit us in the comments below. [Rankings displayed at the jump] I’m a few pegs too low on Colin Kaepernick...

Saints defense to face tough test from Jackson, Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have added 13 rookies to their squad: seven draft choices and six free agents. But it's a long-time veteran addition that might prove the most problematic for the Saints Sunday. The Falcons have a locked and loaded team already don't forget they narrowly missed out on playing in the Super Bowl last year. Returning are key weapons like quarterback Matt...

Falcons' Roddy White vows to play against Saints

Roddy White isn't promising he'll be 100 percent for the Falcons' opener at the Saints on Sunday. White is guaranteeing he'll be on the field - just like every game of his career. The streak of 128 consecutive games played - every regular-season game for eight seasons - appeared to be at risk when White sprained his left ankle in Atlanta's second preseason game...

WR Roddy White returns to practice, ready for season opener against Saints

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of, Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White sustained an ankle injury in the second exhibition game against Baltimore on August 15, returned to practice on Wednesday. White has started 128 straight games and has not missed a start in his NFL career. He's been out ever since but hasn't suffered any setbacks. As a veteran who knows the system...

Asante Samuel Questionable vs. Saints

Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel is questionable for Sunday's season opener against the Saints. He's battling a thigh injury. SOURCE: Falcons on TwitterFantasy Spin:Samuel was a limited participant at practice on Friday. He'll have his hands full if he plays on Sunday. New Orleans has led the league in passing offense each of the last two seasons.

New Falcons OL bracing for first test from Saints

It's no secret that the new starters on Atlanta's offensive line, especially right tackle Lamar Holmes, will get a lot of attention from the Saints in Sunday's opening game. The new-look line must adjust to the departures of center Todd McClure, who retired, and right tackle Tyson Clabo, who was not re-signed. Holmes, who has played in only one game, was rushed into...

Roddy White is Questionable

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons receiver Roddy White (ankle) is questionable for Week 1.Fantasy Spin:White suffered a minor ankle sprain in the second preseason game and should be fine to play despite the questionable tag. He has played in 128 of 128 over his eight-year career. Make sure he's in your lineup Sunday against the Saints.

The Falcons and Saints give us an outstanding opening weekend match-up. Week 1 picks

The Falcons and Saints are going to give us one of the best match-ups of the weekend. After postings a record of 164-92 last season, I'm ready to breakthrough to 70% this season. We've started off on the right foot by getting the Broncos game right. Here's a look at Week 1. Vikings @ Lions - Detroit wins.  This game will give fans for both teams...

Blogging with the Enemy: Q&A with Grits Blitz

It's a bit of a tradition by now that twice a year I connect with Grits Blitz, an Atlanta Falcon blog, to talk about the game and get some pot shots in in the process. Always a good time and they are good enough sports to indulge me despite rooting for such filthy trash. Of course it's always in good fun, if you suspend my deep seated hatred for the Falcons. But seriously...

NFC South Beakdown

Atlanta Falcons Prediction: 1st in division (13-3 overall) Strengths: Offensively, they have so many weapons. Two top ten receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Addition of Steven Jackson will be huge. Matt Ryan is a top 10 QB. Defense is pretty solid as well. Causes for concern: Not too many causes for concern in Atlanta. Only concerns would result from injury.. Not a lot of...

DirecTV and NFL Network Present: Tehol and his associates MJD and Roddy White

Greetings! Ya’ll wanna see my face?  Well, now’s your chance as for the second year in a row I’ve been handpicked by Andrew Siciliano to participate in DirecTV’s promotional fantasy football extravaganza. Receiving the opportunity to ask MJD and Roddy White questions pertaining to fantasy was like a dream come true for me, not so much unlike my other dream that came true...

Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints renew rivalry at Superdome

What better way to start the 2013 NFL regular season than with a rivalry match between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons? This game has been eagerly anticipated since the schedule was first announced, and it is not likely to disappoint. Kickoff for this high-profile contest is noon CT and will be broadcast […]The post Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints renew rivalry...

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: The Rivalry By the Numbers

Say what you want about the rest of the country, but there is no better way to start off the NFL season in the deep south than by pitting the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints against each other in Week One. This is a rivalry that just seems to get more bitter with age. The teams don't like each other, the coaches don't particularly care for each other, and the fans...

Friday Blitz: 10 Things I Want to See Sunday

Ah, football is back. This Sunday, Matty Ice takes on Drew Brees and his bountygate friends. The Falcons are the team to beat this season in the NFC South, and the road to the SuperBowl starts Sunday. Here is my list of 10 things I want to see Sunday..... Matt Ryan picking up where he left off in January. Roddy White on the field to continue his streak. ...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.