Previewing the NFL
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Atlanta Falcons logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Georgia, Ooh Georgia. This has become the official team song of the Atlanta Falcons. For the last five years the Falcons have been on our minds, well during the regular season that is. Four of the last five years they have impressed us during the regular season and made the playoffs, then in the playoffs they have fell flat on their faces. I have never seen a team that has had so much talent that couldn’t win a single playoff game. Guess what, this year isn’t looking any better. (10-6 = yes, winning it all = no)
The Falcons moved quickly to land offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Koetter has decided to run a variation of vertical power offense and tweak, not completely alter, the playbook. Koetter has also indicated the Matt Ryan-led, no-huddle attack will still be a big part of their offense.
What else can you say about Matty Ice? Top ten QB, threw for a franchise record 4, 177 yards, threw for 29 TDs, and has one of the deadliest group of receivers. What else is there? Oh yea, how he turns to into a big block of ice in the playoffs. With a lack of any depth at the quarterback position, lets hope that the beefing up in the off-season will keep him healthy all season long. Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson? Really? Don’t worry, Ryan will complete the season, pass for more than 4,500 yards, and will throw for more than 30 TDs.
Well unless the Atlanta Falcons have the fountain of youth in their back yard, things will only slow down at the running back position. Michael Turner led the NFC last season with 1,340 yards. He’s a thickly built bell cow with good power, strength and vision, but elusiveness and acceleration have never been a strength in his game. As he begins football for the first time in his 30s, we are going to see a drop in production. No worries, the passing game will become such an important part of this teams game plan that they will only need about 950 yards from him this season.
Hands down top five receiving corps. How does one quarterback get so lucky to have Julio Jones, Roddy White, and the reliable Tony Gonzalez on one team? Sprinkle in a little Douglas and Meier and you have receiving corps that is deadly. We will see the Falcons with two receivers that have more than 1,000 yards this season. Now that Julio Jones is in his second season, healthy, and knows his role, this offense is going to be a scoring machine. Julio Jones and Roddy White had last year to gel, this year Ryan will take advantage of that.
With a new defense coordinator, Mike Nolan, maybe the Atlanta Falcons can actually bring a defensive presence. In the past, the Atlamta Falcons defense has been their biggest weakness. The biggest concern going into this season is the linebacker position. The productive, dependable leader, Chris Lofton had played just about every snap for the Falcons at middle linebacker since he entered the league in 2008. Lofton departed in free agency after Atlanta signed MLB Lofa Tatupu. Atlanta’s big solution to fix their weakness at defense is to bring in a 29-year-old Tatupu? A three-time Pro Bowler who spent last season out of the league after having surgery on BOTH knees. Even though they also added CB Asante Samuels, unless they start making so bigger moves on the defensive side of the ball, they will never go any farther than they have going the last couple years. Like I tell everyone, you can’t out score everyone. Just ask New England and Green Bay, they proved that last year.
Atlanta’s special-teams ace, Eric Weems, signed with the Bears during free agency, leaving a void in their kickoff and punt returner position. The duties will probably be handed over to Harry Douglas, who hasn’t handled returns since his rookie season in 2008. PK Matt Bryant’s 88.6 percent accuracy on field goals since joining the Falcons in 2009 is second in the league over that span of time. He has become clutch and will be a key reason for another great regular season.
Winning seasons and playoff berths are not enough to make the Falcons content anymore. It’s a sign of the tremendous progress the franchise has made over the past four seasons, but the pressure is on to take the next step. With all the Pro Bowl caliber players this team has, there is no excuse for them not to be winning playoff games. Things haven’t changed enough for me to think this year will be any different. More dramatic coaching changes will be made after this season in hopes to get over this hump.
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