Saturday, September 3, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Atlanta Falcons

Until after the 2009 season, the Falcons never had consecutive winning seasons. They were, by record, the best team in the NFC a season ago, and have never made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. Mike Smith has led this team to become one of the best in the NFL, but last year they could not get past the buzzsaw that were the Green Bay Packers. Will they be able to get past them this year?

What's New: There are a number of new faces to help the Falcons this season. The biggest one was the drafting of WR Julio Jones to help open up the deep threat in the passing game. On defense, they added DE Ray Edwards from Minnesota, and helped out the secondary by adding CB Kelvin Hayden from Indianapolis, and FS James Sanders, who was recently released by New England. The offense line had some departures, but the majority of the line stays in tact, and that will be important for the overall success for this team. They identified the issues that they had and went out and tried to fix them, and did a very good job at that.

Biggest Strength: Matt Ryan is a very good, and consistent QB that is still getting better in his 4th season, and now has a full complement of offensive weapons, especially with the addition of Julio Jones to complement Roddy White. They have a good running game with Michael Turner, who can get big chunks of yardage with each carry, and that plays to the advantage of the Falcons, with a chance to open up the passing game even further. The offensive line may have suffered some hits this offseason, but many of the core players in the unit stay in Atlanta. On defense, the Falcons have a very prominent pass rush with John Abraham, Kroy Biermann  and Ray Edwards, and they are helped by a good linebacking corps. The secondary is where many of the problems were last season, but they were addressed full and well in free agency.

Biggest Weakness: Aside from fighting any injuries that could pop up, there isn't much depth at the linebacker position, as well as the secondary. If the depth is needed, problems could arise at those areas on defense. But there aren't that many issues other than depth on this team.

Outlook: It will be tough to repeat as the #1 seed in the NFC, with many good teams challenging them. But they got much better this offseason, and should be able to fight those teams like New Orleans, Green Bay, and Philadelphia for the top spot in the NFC. They are one of the better teams in the NFL, and are a distinct Super Bowl contender, but only if they are able to beat the ones giving them the biggest challenges, and try to make due with the depth issues on

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