The Falcons are a very strong team. Having won 10 games last season and 12 the previous, they have established a model of success that permeates through the regular season. The playoffs, however, have not been so kind, as they have gone 0-3 during the postseason the last three years. While QB Matt Ryan should be entering his prime, Tony Gonzalez has more or less committed to retiring after the season and Michael Turner is showing signs of slowing down dramatically. With the potential emergence of second-year WR Julio Jones, the Falcons need to win now.
2011 Record: 10-6
Key Additions: Asante Samuel, Peter Konz
Key Losses: Curtis Lofton, Ovie Mughelli, Vince Manuwai
Offense: The Falcons have one of the best passing games in the business. Matt Ryan is a lock for 4,000 yards each season and will only get better with the development of Julio Jones. Gonzalez and Turner are both a step or two slower than in years past, but the duo of White and Jones should provide plenty of ammunition for a potent attack.
Defense: The Falcons had one of the best defenses in the league just a few short years ago, but time has since taken effect. The defensive line underachieved tremendously last season, especially by the likes of Edwards and Jerry. There is athleticism in the secondary, but Robinson has never been consistent, Samuel is new to the team (not to mention a tad slower}, and Grimes shows promise but is still developing. Expect a difficult year for the defense.
Coaching: Mike Smith is a fantastic coach. He set high expectations and established a winning attitude that Atlanta had lacked for a long time. Smith can maximize this team’s success by managing a sound defense of the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy. He can utilize his high powered offense to score often and early, making things easier on his defense by playing to it’s strength, which should be secondary.
Breakout Player: Name a player who will break out onto the national scene.
2012 Prediction: 11-5. This team will mirror the same pattern as last year. They will be a strong team not to be taken lightly, but it is difficult to foresee them becoming dominant unless their offense can become a Patriots-like juggernaut. They may not have the slot receiver to make that happen, though, and most likely will make it to the playoffs once again, but not go very far.
Overview: A soft early schedule will cause this team to peak out of the gate, which is not necessarily a good thing. Division battles against the Saints are both in the latter half of the season, when the defense may be slowing down a bit. They are still a team to be taken seriously, though, and if they can muster everything they have, they might get that long-sought W in the post-season.