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Ultimate 2013 Predictions

September 5th, 2013 Comments off
John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan and Jones lead the Falcons to a fourth consecutive playoff season

The 2013 NFL season kicks off tonight, and it’s once again time for the yearly predictions. You’ll see how I project the Falcons 2013 season to go as well as my projections for the other 31 NFL teams. I’ll also try and estimate some of the stats that Falcons players will have this year. I was fairly accurate on many of those projections last year.

If you heard the latest episode of the FalcFans podcast, where myself and Allen Strk projected the playoff teams, you’re not going to see many significant changes. But there are a few, not that I’ve had a few more days to dwell on things.

2013 ATLANTA FALCONS

Final Record: 10-6 (2nd place in NFC South)

1- at Saints – L
2- Rams – W
3- at Dolphins – W
4- Patriots – W
5- Jets – W
6- bye
7- Bucs – W
8- at Cardinals – W
9- at Panthers – L
10- Seahawks – W
11- at Bucs – L
12- Saints – L
13- at Bills – W
14- at Packers – L
15- Redskins – W
16- at 49ers – L
17- Panthers – W

The rest of the league’s projections continue after the jump.
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Five Falcons to Watch Tonight vs. Titans

August 24th, 2013 Comments off

Tonight against the Tennessee Titans will function much like a dress rehearsal for the regular season. The Falcons have game-planned for the Titans, and the starters will likely see their most extensive action of the preseason. They are expected to play all of the first half and also might get a series or two in the second half.

While preseason records don’t count, the third preseason typically is the Falcons’ best because of their primary reliance on starters. Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are 4-1 in their third preseason game. That represents 4 of only 7 preseason wins the Falcons have earned under Smith over the past five summers. So when it comes to treating these exhibition games like the real games, the team is exceedingly good.

The players to watch will focus mainly on the starters:

FB Bradie Ewing

Tonight will be Ewing’s first preseason action, and frankly his first NFL action after suffering a season-ending injury early in his first preseason action last year as a rookie while working on special teams. He has yet to line up on offense with the Falcons. Ewing is expected to man the starting fullback position. While Patrick DiMarco hasn’t run away with the spot in his absence, Ewing will need to have a solid debut and if he can get one clean, hole-clearing hit on a Titans linebacker to spring Steven Jackson, it’ll be a successful night.

TE Tony Gonzalez

This will mark Gonzo’s only action of the preseason. There are zero questions surrounding Gonzalez, but it will be nice to see him on the field. He’s both a security blanket for Matt Ryan and also the fans. As long as he’s healthy and playing, things are going to be okay.

DT Peria Jerry

I have been a firm believer that when the time comes, the Falcons will opt to dump Jerry due to his high salary and lacking production when final cuts are made next weekend. But I’ve been wrong before. Jerry has been working extensively with the team’s starters when Mike Nolan has used a 3-man front, playing left defensive end. Jerry has made minimal contributions as a Falcon since his injury in 2009, and if things are going to be different in 2013, it needs to show up tonight.

DE Jonathan Massaquoi

With the starters expected to get a full first half of play, it will be interesting to see how much the Falcons try to mix Massaquoi in with the group and how effective he is going up against the Titans’ starting offensive tackles. Massaquoi has been the one shining spot among the backups when it has come to getting pressure on the quarterback, and the Falcons will likely employ him in a rotation with Biermann and Umenyiora once the regular season starts. But how many reps he earns may depend on how strong a showing he has tonight.

OLB Sean Weatherspoon

Tonight will be Spoon’s first action of the preseason. And while Spoon is not in a position where he needs to prove himself, like with Gonzalez, it will be nice to see him on the field nonetheless. He’s coming off a lackluster (by his standards) 2012 season, and it will be nice to see if he can kick off his 2013 performance with a good start tonight.

Takeaways from Last Week – August 19

August 19th, 2013 Comments off
ICON SMI

Could we see the return of Mike Peterson?

Roddy White is injured, and I’m not worried. At least I should say I’m not worried right now. If White is out of the lineup in Week 1, then I’ll be worried.

But I’m pretty calm at this point in time, even knowing that White will miss the rest of the preseason with an ankle injury that he suffered on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Falcons now have three weeks for White to get some rest and hopefully heal what the team termed a “minor” injury. Initial reports seem to confirm the lack of severity on this injury, suggesting White could suit up within a week if this were the regular season. But to be honest, I don’t fully buy that. The Falcons routinely have underestimated the amount of time it would take for their players to return. One famous example came in 2010 when Michael Jenkins suffered a shoulder injury in early August that was originally slated to put him out 4-6 weeks. Jenkins did not suit up for a Falcons game until 10 weeks later.

Now it should be noted that since 2010 I don’t recall any other blatant misreads of a player’s recovery. And the team may be a lot better today now three years removed at estimating the timetables for players’ recoveries. But generally speaking, I tend to add a week or two to all prognoses that the Falcons release about their injured players. The fact that the Falcons usually don’t put a timetable on players’ returns is also indicative that they also realize that it only opens themselves up for more criticism.

But the term “minor” is such a relative term. It could be minor in the sense that it may only keep him from practice or playing for a week or two. It could be minor in the sense that it won’t require surgery, but could keep him out of the lineup for a month or more. We really won’t know until Wednesday, September 4, when the Falcons practice report for Week 1 is released and it says either FP (full participation), LP (limited participation), or DNP (did not practice) to indicate where White’s status is. My personal philosophy is que sera sera, thus there is no sense worrying about things you cannot control.

And losing White is arguably the lesser of two evils, at least compared to losing Julio Jones. While I think Richard Sherman’s “dissing” of White several months ago went a bit too far (by saying he’s a product of the system), I do think there is a small sliver of a kernel of truth to what Sherman was saying in that White isn’t as good a player as Jones. Jones is the player that really makes the Falcons offense go, at least in the sense that it changes the way teams try to defend the Falcons. I do think there is a lot more overlap in regards to how the Falcons normally use White in comparison to his replacement, Harry Douglas.

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Training Camp: Day 17 Report

August 18th, 2013 Comments off

The Falcons break training camp after a brief practice Sunday morning. The following was the news emerging after Saturday’s practice.

  • Head coach Mike Smith gave injury updates (video) on players after practice yesterday. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon returned to practice on Saturday after suffering an injury to his finger early last week. Running back Jason Snelling is expected to return to practice today. Linebacker Robert James and fullback Bradie Ewing are expected to resume regular practice on Tuesday, since the Falcons will be off on Monday. All four players missed this past Thursday’s preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Falcons wideout Roddy White will not play in the team’s upcoming preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans next Saturday and thus will not suit up for the remainder of the preseason. Regular starters do not suit up for the  fourth and final preseason, scheduled for August 29 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith indicated that he’s on the same “plan” as the rest of the starters i.e. he won’t play against Jacksonville.
  • In other injury news, linebacker Stephen Nicholas did not finish practice on Saturday. No further information has been made available.
  • Tony Gonzalez is set to return today after a three-week absence from camp.
  • Click here to check out the five things Jay Adams learned about the Falcons on Saturday.
  • Defensive end Osi Umenyiora made the decision to switch his uniform number from 90. He will be taking No. 50 from linebacker Pat Schiller. Schiller’s new number has yet to be determined.


Gonzalez set to return today

August 18th, 2013 Comments off

Tony Gonzalez is set to return today to practice as the Falcons break training camp. Gonzalez left camp on July 27 to spend time with his family in California. Gonzalez was expected to retire after last season but agreed to come back. Part of that agreement was to allow him time to his family, particularly his 12-year old son Nikko. During Gonzalez’s three-week absence, he was in constant communication with the team and his position coach, Chris Scelfo. Gonzalez is expected to suit up for the Falcons upcoming preseason contest against the Tennessee Titans next Saturday.

Categories: News Tags: ,

Training Camp: Day 12 Report

August 7th, 2013 Comments off

Wednesday served as a pre-game walkthrough day for the Falcons in preparation for tomorrow night’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • Tony Gonzalez’s return to Atlanta is not expected until around August 17 per John Manasso of FOX Sports. It has been previously noted that Gonzalez is expected to return for the third and fourth preseason games, the former of which will be played against the Tennessee Titans on August 24 in Nashville. That third preseason game is typically the one where NFL teams suit up their starters and play them into the third quarter, meaning it makes sense to have Gonzalez back in time for that. The return date of August 17 indicates that Gonzalez will likely use the week prior to knock off any rust that has accumulated since departing camp on July 27. In Gonzalez’s absence, most reports indicate that Chase Coffman and Levine Toilolo have made the most of their opportunities with the starters.
  • Mike Smith talked about many of the things he’ll look for in the upcoming preseason game, including the situation at right tackle. Another interesting note is that Smith indicated that he expects Jacquizz Rodgers to handle the team’s kickoff return duties during the regular season, although other players will get opportunities throughout the preseason. With Rodgers relatively secure on kickoffs, it would seem that the bulk of the competition will come for punt return duties. Throughout camp, players like Robert Alford, Dominique Franks, Jason Snelling, James Rodgers, Harry Douglas, and Rashad Evans have reportedly gotten work there. Previous reports indicate that Douglas is only likely going to be a last resort.
  • Thomas DeCoud gives some personal insight into some of his teammates in the secondary.
  • Daniel Cox has his five notes from Day 12 of camp, including discussion of the increased workload that Dominique Davis saw on Wednesday and will likely see throughout the preseason, the expectation that Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder will likely split reps at right tackle on Thursday, and Matt Ryan’s focus for the preseason and the rest of the year.
  • The Falcons haven’t quite ruled out Mike Johnson for the remainder of the year per Jay Adams of AtlantaFalcons.com.


    As noted earlier, the Falcons could seek to place Johnson on injured reserve but designated for return, sometimes referred to as the “short-term IR.” That would mean he would miss the first six weeks of the regular season and then be eligible to return to practice and subsequently the active roster after eight weeks. The short-term IR is only allowed for one player and must be determined by September 3 in the case of Johnson. The Falcons could opt to keep Johnson on the active roster between now and then, but they would lose one of their 90-man roster spots in camp. However they could potentially place him on the “normal” IR (gaining a roster spot) and then reactivate him for the September 3 deadline so that he can be then designated for return. The third option would to be of course to place him on normal long-term injured reserve with the expectation that he’ll miss the entire season. None of which, as Adams and Smith indicated, will not be known until following his surgery, scheduled for next week.

Training Camp: Day 3 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Recapping once more what media outlets were discussing from the third day of the Atlanta Falcons 2013 training camp:

  • John Manasso shed a bit more light on the expected absence of tight end Tony Gonzalez, who departed camp today. He’ll be expected back to participate in the final two preseason games (on August 24 and 29 vs. Tennessee and Jacksonville respectively). When he returns prior to that point still remains unknown.
  • Desmond Trufant’s confidence is up. Confidence is a necessary trait for quality corners. Goes along with a short memory, something Trufant is going to have going up against these Falcon receivers.
  • Martel Moore has earned praise from several outlets for his work during the first two days of camp. The latest being from Manasso and Jay Adams.
  • Osi Umenyiora is getting reps as a stand-up pass rusher, although he’s not sure how much he’ll be asked to do that on Sundays. Well if he was to ask John Abraham, the answer would be “a lot.”
  • Looks like a foursome might be emerging that is vying for the punt returner spot. To no surprise, Harry Douglas, Dominique Franks, Robert Alford, and James Rodgers got reps today. Douglas and Franks worked on the unit last season. Alford returned punts while at SE Louisiana. Rodgers split reps with his brother Jacquizz last summer on kickoff returns, but also got reps on punts during his collegiate career at Oregon State.
  • And as usual, Daniel Cox recounts five observations from the third day of camp, an obligatory read.

Ranking the Falcons: No. 3 Tony Gonzalez

July 27th, 2013 Comments off
Icon Sports Media, Inc.

Tony Gonzalez

The third-ranked Falcon player is none other than tight end Tony Gonzalez. Click here to see how this ranking system was devised.

Total Score: 90

Player Grade: 82 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 30 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 30 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +0
Positional Bonus: +3

Gonzalez had an uncannily good 2012 season. At age 36, he managed to put together the best season he’s had since joining the Falcons in 2009.

Gonzalez has always shined on third downs and in the redzone. His size, athleticism, hands, and ability to get position against defenders makes him virtually impossible to cover in these “money” situations. He’s ostensibly the NFL’s equivalent of a power forward, who goes down to the low block and posts up defenders.

The big question about Gonzalez going into 2013 is whether or not he can have a repeat of what he did in 2012. He’s well past his peak seasons, as only he and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe were able to be productive tight ends up to age 35. For most other tight ends, even very good receiving ones, they don’t really make it past age 32. It’s why conventional wisdom suggests that Gonzalez could see a dip in his production due to the belief that at some point his age will catch up to him.

But he should still manage to defy the odds in 2013. Considering that it will be his final season, he’ll be highly motivated to succeed in order to help the Falcons win a title. He also should get plenty of opportunities with Roddy White and Julio Jones lining up on the outside of him to draw coverages away from him. And no one takes care of their body better than he does. It all means that Gonzalez could be in store to even top his production from a year ago and become the first Falcon tight end to ever top 1,000 yards in a season. If he manages to get 1,031 yards this year, he’ll become the team’s all-time receiving yards leader at the position, doing in five seasons what it took Jim Mitchell more than a decade to do in the 70s.

Categories: Features Tags: , ,

Ryan Has His Money, Now He Needs More Help

July 27th, 2013 Comments off
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan got paid, and deservedly so. While he may not have the accomplishments that put him on par with the other most highly-paid quarterbacks in the league, it certainly doesn’t make him any less deserving of being in that peer group.

And by accomplishments, we’re talking about playoff wins and Super Bowls.

Now that Ryan is being paid handsomely for his services with the Falcons, more scrutiny is going to come towards him even if he doesn’t feel it. Rightly or wrongly, quarterbacks are largely judged by how many playoff wins and Super Bowl rings they have.

I personally believe those things often get overrated when assessing individual quarterbacks. Postseason success is largely billed as reflective of quarterbacks, but it is in fact reflective of the entire team that he plays on. Teams win games, not necessarily quarterbacks. While quarterbacks are the most important aspect of a team, football is not like basketball where you can be a championship contender by having one transcendent player. Just look at Drew Brees in New Orleans, who by the way had zero playoff wins in his first five seasons (one less than Ryan). Brees has helmed the Saints for seven seasons, and three of those seasons the Saints did not finish with a record above .500. Their lack of success in those seasons was largely because of their poor defensive play which ranked among the ten worst teams in the league in all three seasons. Brees will ultimately be enshrined in Canton for his tenure with the Saints, but it’s clear that even a quarterback of his caliber can’t do it all on his own.

And that’s the point I’m getting to with Ryan. While the Falcons have rewarded Ryan with a resplendent contract, they need to get him more help if they hope that he ultimately will have greater postseason success moving forward.

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Training Camp: Day 2 Report

July 27th, 2013 Comments off

Here’s the buzz and news that emerged on the second day of Falcons camp. Once again, hat tip to the AJC for providing a transcript of some of the post-practice interviews.

    • The Falcons added Syracuse wide receiver Marcus Sales to the roster. Sales tried out with the Falcons following the draft, but went unsigned as an undrafted free agent. Sales finished his career at Syracuse strong, with career highs of 64 catches, 882 yards (13.8 avg), and 8 touchdowns.
    • The Falcons also named another addition to their training camp roster.
    • Brian Banks clearly appreciated the magnitude of the moment and situation he has earned for himself during his first practice with the team on Thursday.
    • Knox Bardeen indicated that rookie cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford looked a little green during their first day. It seems their struggles continued on Day 2, as they continue to take their lumps against one of the NFL’s premier receiving duos in Roddy White and Julio Jones.

    • Daniel Cox of Atlanta Falcons.com gives five excellent observations from the second day of camp, including Steven Jackson’s usage in the passing game, Drew Davis and Kevin Cone’s progress at wide receiver in their third seasons with the team, Trufant and Alford’s abilities to have short memories when it comes to getting beat in coverage, Kroy Biermann’s continued usage as a “joker” in Mike Nolan’s defense, and Chase Coffman’s ability to benefit from Tony Gonzalez’s absence.
    • Matt Ryan doesn’t mind that Gonzalez will being getting time off from camp due to the strong rapport the pair have built over the past four seasons. Ryan spent some time with Gonzalez in Southern Cali to strengthen their bonds this off-season. And Ryan likes the opportunity it presents him to get some of the other tight ends involved, echoing Cox’s sentiments about Coffman.
    • Ryan also feels that Peter Konz is off to a good start in his transition to center, where he is more comfortable. Given the switch over to Konz at center, left guard Justin Blalock is taking on more of a leadership role with the offensive line as they tried to build continuity given the departure of 13-year veteran Todd McClure.