This past season was an electric but ultimately disappointing experience for the Atlanta Falcons
and their fanbase. Atlanta is infamous for having brought home only one championship in more than 150 cumulative sports seasons; and although I’m not going to be so bold as to predict a Super Bowl for this coming season, it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question either (please note: I’m obligated to say this for fear of violent reprisal from friends and family living in the hometown).
In brainstorming for this article, some of the more outrageous suggestions included seeing Arthur Blank on the sidelines in a full Adidas track suit, Georgia Dome concession stands vending delicious falcon-meat tacos, and live promotional falcons awarded with ticket purchases — but unfortunately, these ideas were all scrapped for the truncated list below. So, without any more delay, here are 5 bold predictions for the Atlanta Falcons going into the 2012 season:
Two (or maybe 3?) 1000+ WRs: Roddy White & Julio Jones
By the end of the 2012 season, the Falcons will have two 1000+-yard receivers in Julio Jones
and Roddy White
, and maybe a third if the team signs Harry Douglas from free agency. In all truth, this already almost happened last season — White caught 100 receptions for 1296 yards and 8 touchdowns, while Jones made 54 receptions for 959 yards and 8 touchdowns. And significantly, Tony Gonzalez also recorded 875 yards last season.
Tony Gonzalez replaces Jerry Rice in the Record Books
That’s right, tight end Tony Gonzalez
is going to surpass Jerry Rice
as the NFL's all-time greatest receiver. He already holds the NFL records for tight end with the most receptions in a single season (102) from 2004; not to mention, he has the records for career tight end touchdowns (95) and reception yards (13,339). He’s accrued 1149 receptions in his career, second only to wide receiver Jerry Rice’s 1,549 receptions. So, Gonzo will only have to reel in 400 receptions this season to break Rice’s record. That’s possible, right? Okay, so this prediction is probably a little too bold. Sue me.
2012 Will be the Year of the Burner, Michael Turner
There’s been recent speculation that running back Michael Turner
will see reduced carries this season — this coming amid rumors of an increased workload for the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers,
and predictions that the Falcons will select another young back during the draft. All speculation aside, though, this will be a banner year for the Burner as he surpasses the 1,500-yard mark in total rushing yards. Even more importantly, Mike Smith
will send Turner straight up the middle on 4th and short twice in the same game, and he'll make it... both times! No, seriously — if the universe has any sense of fairness (and by all accounts we know it does), then this is going
Eric Weems Precipitates a Special Teams Explosion
Atlanta’s return specialist, wide receiver Eric Weems
, will crack the code in the Matrix, allowing him to bypass the NFL's new return rules so that he can post the greatest single-season return performance of all time. This excellent showing in the special teams category will be the primary, driving force for the Falcons going into the postseason. Eat that, Devin Hester.
Matty Ice Earns His Nickname and Airs it Out
It’s almost a sure bet that quarterback Matt Ryan
will have an excellent year — possibly throwing for 4,731 yards, scoring 35 touchdowns and being intercepted only 14 times this fall. As the team’s franchise quarterback, Ryan is clearly the future for the organization, and assuming he manages to remain healthy, that isn’t going change. With Julio Jones now going into his second season, Ryan almost can’t help but start racking up the stats, but will this finally be enough to take the team to a playoff win? Only time will tell, of course, but Matty Ice and Co. would do well to work on their collective playoff poise before postseason time rolls around again.