After a long and painful offseason, NFL Football has finally returned. All 32 teams (except maybe the Jets) are excited to get back to the grind, and work towards that legendary Lombardi Trophy. The Falcons in particular seem ready to take the next step. However, there are some holes that may cost us the big game. Here are some reasons why the Falcons will, and will not, be the Super Bowl champions in early February.
WHY THEY WILL
- Matt Ryan and his weapons: Without these guys, our beloved Dirty Birds would be nothing. Matt, Roddy, Julio, Tony, and Steven together make Atlanta’s offense one of the most explosive in NFL history. Matt Ryan is entering his sixth season, and has improved every year. Roddy is still the reliable outside threat that Atlanta has come to expect. Julio is entering his prime, and should join the likes of Calvin and Larry Fitzgerald as one of the most dominant wideouts in the game. The ageless Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one final run, and Steven Jackson is also looking to quench his thirst for a championship. All of the pieces have fallen into place, and there are no excuses.
- The opportunistic defense: Last season, the Falcons were in the bottom 10 for yards allowed, but ranked in the top 5 for points allowed. Why? Because Atlanta has a “Bend, Don’t Break” philosophy. They may allow tons of yards/first downs, but when the opposing offense reaches the red zone, they find a hard time punching it in. Our young stars in Weatherspoon, DeCoud, and Moore help that happen.
- 2nd year coordinators: Let us take a moment to applaud Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan for their stellar 2012 campaign. This team looked completely different under the leadership of these two masterminds, and that’s because we saw our players being used to their full potential. Look for each side of the ball to take ANOTHER leap this season.
- Pass protection: If you have been watching Falcons Football since at least 2011, you know the offensive line is one of, if not the biggest weakness on the team. LT Sam Baker is a solid starter, and so is LG Justin Blalock. Peter Konz has had a good preseason at center, and should anchor the line for years to come. However, after that; the line is a big question mark. Garrett Reynolds had a solid 2012 showing until his injury, but thus far in 2012, he has been a liability. The RT position was set in stone with Tyson Clabo, but Atlanta felt comfortable letting backups Mike Jonhson and Lamar Holmes battle it out for the starting role. Mike Johnson was winning the battle, then he went down in training camp with a dislocated ankle and a fibula fracture. Unless Lamar Holmes improves upon his horrid preseason play, Matt Ryan will be eating the grass all season.
- Lack of a pass rush: The lack of a pass rush has been a constant frustration in Atlanta for many seasons. Atlanta cut the aging John Abraham, who was our greatest pass rushing threat, and replaced him with Osi Umenyiora. While this may have been a good move, it still doesn’t make up for the rest of the team’s failure to produce. Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi, and Malliciah Goodman HAVE to provide some sort of pressure for Atlanta to have success against elite quarterbacks in 2013.