ESPN has been doing a breakdown of teams who made the playoff in 2011, but they don’t think will make it in 2012. A couple days ago, the Falcons name was called. While it was disappointing to hear that pundits (even from a source with a known bias like ESPN) are picking against the Falcons, the expert’s opinions are extremely hard to argue with.
Marcellus Wiley’s reason for picking things is usually pretty flimsy, but he actually hit the nail on the head right here. He said that the Falcons mentality hasn’t exactly been very tough once they made the playoff the past couple seasons, and it has shown in them getting beaten or flat blown out by their opponents. The Falcons need to get their mindset right and once they reach the playoffs execute their game plan. However with the increased competition around the NFC and even in their division, wins will come at a premium. I can certainly agree that it will be difficult for the Falcons to reach the playoffs, that much is clear.
Mark Schlereth gives a more concrete reason, which is just as valid and is something that I have been harping on all offseason. Schlereth says that mortgaging the future of the franchise to trade up for Julio Jones in 2011 was their undoing. The were unable to use those draft picks to address the tackle positions (where obviously Sam Baker has been miserable, but Tyson Clabo has been a Pro-bowler) and elected to allow their nastiest o-lineman (Harvey Dahl) leave in the 2011 free-agency period. Losing the starting right guard, and not having a solid solution at left tackle makes the situation very precarious for Matt Ryan. We all know that winning in the trenches in the solution to winning football games, and lately the Falcons haven’t been protecting well against teams with terrific pass-rushes (Green Bay, Detroit, Philadelphia). Until they truly address their offensive line issues, they won’t return to the playoffs. I share his sentiments in that I believe it will be challenging for the Falcons to win in 2012 with o-line play like they had in 2011.
Do you think they Falcons will make the playoffs once again, or do you believe the ESPN machine is right, and the Falcons will be denied this privilege?