This is the team that you’re going to be watching every Sunday. The 2013 Atlanta Falcons have everything that an owner, coach, and NFL fan could want in their home team.
From the star quarterback to the elite wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends, to the future Hall-of-Famers, this team has it all.
The following are the BOLD predictions for the Matt Ryan led Falcons.
No. 1: The Falcons will play in the Super Bowl.
Have you ever wanted to be able to go to the ProBowl in Hawaii?
It can’t get any better for a sports fan than watching the best NFL players from the previous year in one of the best vacation destinations in the world.
For fans living in and around Atlanta they will be able to get that same experience every home game that the Falcons play (except for the whole Hawaii part). Only, none of the Falcons players will be playing in the Pro Bowl this year, because they’ll be preparing to play in a much colder climate at the Super Bowl.
The makeup of this team is unbelievable and it’s hard to find a weak spot. Elite quarterback? Check. Star play makers at wide receiver and running back? Check. Old guy at tight end who can still hang with the young guys and will be in Canton, Ohio soon enough? Check. Shut down defense led by a newly acquired veteran and stacked with young, eager talent? Yep, they’ve got that too.
If you were nit picking, maybe you could say that the inexperience at some positions on defense would be a weakness, but I wouldn’t count on it come Week 1. The veteran leadership on this team is one of the strongest in the league and will quickly solve any weaknesses that may show up in training camp.
Now, I don’t think the Falcons will go undefeated this year, although they are capable of doing it. But I do think they’ll only lose at most three games, if that many. They have the 15th toughest schedule in the league, but check it out for yourself here; these guys aren’t going to lose too many times.
Odds makers have the Falcons as 14/1 favorites to win it all. With the addition of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, and the return of much of the team from 2012 those chances are better than that.
No. 2: By Week 4 you’ll be kicking yourself for not picking Steven Jackson on your Fantasy team.
First, let’s be clear that if you have the chance to take an Adrian Peterson in your draft then you obviously take him. But with that said, I think Jackson is going to be right up there with some of the top running backs and the end of the season.
Taking a look at Jackson’s career, you can see why he jumped at the chance to join this Falcons team, even leaving some money on the table. While he is the current rushing leader for his former team with 10,135 yards, the best season that he has been a part of was in 2004 and 2006 when the St. Louis Rams went 8-8.
At the age of 30 Jackson understands that his football career is closer to the end than the beginning and knows that if he is going to have a chance to get that Super Bowl ring it better be soon.
While he has many critics, many of his supporters and Jackson himself believe that he still has plenty left in the tank, especially with this Falcons team.
Holding the 29th place on the all time rushing list, Jackson is in good company just behind names like Eddie George, Tiki Barber, Warrick Dunn, and Thurman Thomas. If he can put a couple of good seasons together he may have a slight chance of making it to the Hall of Fame.
But I don’t think that’s what he’s concerned with. He signed with this team because he saw the caliber of player that he would be surrounded by and the possibilities for big things in Atlanta this year. Jackson will not only have a chance to run the ball behind a capable offensive line, but will also be able to capitalize on his pass catching abilities out of the backfield.
And who better than to catch passes from than Matt Ryan? Also, Jackson won’t have to be the feature of the offense as he was forced in to so many times with the Rams. Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez will take away much of the attention and Jackson may have some plays where all he sees is green in front of him.
And when/if he needs a breather the Falcons have Jacquizz Rodgers who has shown that he is capable of handling the running back duties. Jackson will be a huge part of why and how the Falcons make it to the Super Bowl.
No. 3: The Falcon offense will score 35+ points in every regular season game.
Although playing in the Super Bowl is every team’s ultimate goal, getting there while scoring 35+ points a game is almost unheard of. In the history of the NFL only four other teams have accomplished this feat, with the 1950 Rams doing it against two of the worst defensive teams in NFL history. You can check out those teams here.
All four of these teams went on to play in the Super Bowl or in their league’s title game and two of those teams won it all. For comparison let’s look at the most recent of those four teams to score 35+ points per game in a season, the 2007 New England Patriots.
That year the Patriots were led by Tom Brady. That’s a good start. While the Falcons have a great quarterback in Matt Ryan, he obviously isn’t on Brady’s level yet. But here is where the Falcons come out way ahead. The 2007 Patriots' backfield was headlined by none other than….Laurence Maroney. Who? He led the rushing stats with 835 yards and a whopping six TDs.
The receivers that you know from that team are a little more well known. Randy Moss and Wes Welker tallied 1,493 and 1,175 yards to go along with 23 and eight touchdowns respectively. The Patriot's TE that year was Kyle Brady who totaled 70 yards and two touchdowns while playing in 14 games.
Re-read those last few sentences and understand that this was an unbalanced offense led by an elite quarterback who had one Pro Bowl receiver that beat everybody down the field and one supporting cast member in Wes Welker. And here’s what Matt Ryan has to work with:
Roddy White and Julio Jones are not the 2007 version of Randy Moss. But they are arguably the best WR duo in the league. Also, don’t sleep on Harry Douglass. This guy would be starting on most NFL teams if he didn’t have to compete with White and Jones. Steven Jackson is definitely not the 2007 version of Laurence Maroney; he’s much better.
Not only will he be given the handoffs in the backfield, he’ll also be catching plenty of passes out of the backfield and running them into the end zone or setting up touchdown scoring plays. And as mentioned before, Jacquizz Rodgers is no pushover.
And last, if Tom Brady had had Tony Gonzalez on the 2007 team they may have scored closer to 40+ points a game. Gonzalez came back to win a Super Bowl and you can bet he’ll continue to be a huge threat in the offense.
The last factor in the amount of scoring that the Falcons will do has to do with their opponents. While the Falcons defense is tough they play the Saints twice, Cam Newton and the Panthers twice, Brady and the Patriots once, and also Seattle, Green Bay, Washington, and San Francisco once.
Those teams, led by the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and RGIII are going to score some points. But, the Falcons aren’t going to lose very often and they’ll be scoring more than their opponents most every Sunday. If you enjoy offense you’ll want to watch this team play every weekend.No. 4: Matt Ryan will pass for 5,000+ yards and score 40+ TDs.
And this is the one that you will disagree with, but if I said Ryan would pass for 4,000 yards and 25 TD’s it wouldn’t really be a BOLD statement.
The best that Matt Ryan has done in these two categories is 4,719 yards and 32 TDs last year.
It’s interesting to note that he has shown an increase in both of these stats every year that he has been in the league except for the 2009 season where he dropped off a little in yardage, but still scored more touchdowns than the previous season.
Only six other players have passed for 5,000 yards or more in NFL history. Those players are Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees three times.
The quarterbacks on those teams really did a great job of spreading the ball around with the exception of the 2011 Detroit Lions where Stafford threw the ball the Calvin Johnson on every play. There are six quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 40 or more touchdowns in a season and include the players above along with Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.
Not surprisingly, all of these quarterbacks had at least one Pro Bowl caliber receiver to throw to and many of them had more than one. When comparing the 2013 Falcons to these teams, you will see that the similarities among the offenses are very much alike.
Great quarterback, elite WRs, experience, talent, and multiple threats at running back, and Tony Gonzalez at tight end put this team in the same company as those mentioned earlier. And 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns is A LOT of scoring. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone at the end of the Falcons seasons when Matt Ryan has bested both of these numbers.
No. 5: Osi Umenyiora will have 40+ tackles and 10+ sacks.
While Umenyiora has shown his ability to be a team’s dominant defensive player, his stats have declined in recent years. Over his nine-year NFL career, he has accomplished 40+ tackes in three season and 10 or more sacks in five seasons, although that was a few years ago. Umenyiora seemed to need a change from New York and has found his place with the Falcons.
Like Jackson and Gonzalez, he has hit the 30 year mark and his time to win another Super Bowl is winding down. One of the main reasons that he’ll get to these numbers is because the Falcons need him to and he realizes that.
Questioned earlier in the year in an ESPN interview, Umenyiora, half-jokingly, half-serious, made the statement that he would win the Defensive Player of the Year Award this year. Whether or not that comes true, he understands that he is being asked to replace what John Abraham did last year for the Falcons.
And he understands that on the other side of the ball the Falcons have everything that a championship caliber team needs to win it all. His leadership on the defensive side is going to make a huge impact on some of the younger defensive players and that will allow him to reach these numbers.
No. 6: Every team will have some new, young guy who will talk trash to Tony Gonzalez about being the old guy. And then Tony Gonzalez will proceed to burn that guy up and down the field the rest of the game.
Six BOLD statements is a lot to make about one team, even the Atlanta Falcons, so this one is just for fun, but it’s true. Listen rookies and young guys, this Gonzalez guy has been around the league for 16 years. He knows all the tricks both physically and mentally.
The only reason he came back was because his son told him he thought this team had a good chance to win it all. That’s right, his motivation this season is because his own blood told him to take one more year away from his family because he thought his dad could win the one thing that he’s never won before in 16 years.
There’s a lot of things I would take my chances on, but taking on a guy whose main motivation to win is his son isn’t one of them. So here’s some advice from a guy who is just a bystander and fan; keep your mouth shut when you’re playing Gonzalez.
“Yes sir” and “No sir”, might be appropriate, but most likely you’d be wise to say nothing to him the whole game, especially on the slight chance that you do happen to beat him on one play. Just enjoy the moment and don’t tell him how old he is.
You should definitely go out there this season and try to make a name for yourself, just don’t try to do it with this guy. On the other hand, go ahead and talk trash to him. I think Matt Ryan is going to throw 40 TDs and your cute comments to the future Hall of Fame tight end, might entice him a little more to get into the end zone.
So there they are. Let me know which ones you agree with and which ones you think I’m absolutely crazy for thinking in the comments section.