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Moneyball 2013 – Week 8 Review

October 30th, 2013 Comments off
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan had his worst performance of 2013 in Week 8

Overall, a very disappointing performance for the Atlanta Falcons were they got thoroughly outplayed by the Arizona Cardinals on both sides of the ball for four quarters.

Offensively, I’m going to blame the team’s lack of a deep threat and their inability to get much push on the ground for the main causes of their problems. I counted only one instance in the first half of the game where the Falcons took a measured shot and threw a pass beyond 15 yards. That occurred on an 18-yard throw by Matt Ryan to Drew Davis on a deep in on their second possession of the game. Remember the Falcons had 27 drop backs in the first half. They took more shots downfield in the second half, but that was mainly because they were trying to get back into the game. Ryan did not have the best game and had a few opportunities in the second half to get the big strike. On their first play of the third quarter, Darius Johnson was streaking down field and had a step on the defender, but for whatever reason Ryan chose to check the ball down to Patrick DiMarco for a 2-yard gain. It wasn’t a matter of not seeing him nor having protection, just that Ryan chose to check it down. Then in the fourth quarter, when Ryan hit Harry Douglas on a 25-play on an out and up, if Ryan had put a bit more air under the ball, Douglas could have ran under it and scored a touchdown. That would have given the Falcons six points with roughly 8 minutes left in the game. Instead they ultimately went down the field and scored on that drive, but four additional minutes bled off the clock.

Ryan threw four interceptions, and the first and third one were solely on him. He didn’t see Daryl Washington in the throwing lane on the first pick. On the third one, he tried to throw to a very well-covered Davis, forcing a throw. He then threw a bad ball, and Tyrann Mathieu had an easy pick. The second and fourth interceptions could be blamed on pressure preventing Ryan from stepping into his throws, and hanging up a ball for easy picks by Rashad Johnson. Both times, the Cardinals were able to get a free rusher to Ryan (Marcus Benard on the second pick and Karlos Dansby on the fourth one).

Overall, I thought the pass protection was serviceable. Granted, the standard has fallen sharply in Atlanta over the years. And I would say the line gave Ryan enough protection to make throws if not for the emphasis on short and intermediate throws. Frankly, the Falcons receivers aren’t good enough, and I liked that Dirk Koetter resorted to a lot of pick plays and complementary routes to help his receivers. But it’s clear that this group of receivers is not capable of carrying the load, especially when a team has to drop back 65 times in game. Especially when the no-huddle isn’t part of the equation.

That’s where the offensive line really gets the blame with their poor run blocking. Steven Jackson had really no space to get going, with maybe a yard before he would run into a wall. Granted, part of it was the fact that Jackson didn’t look sharp. And if this is all the push the Falcons can muster, they are better served using Jacquizz Rodgers as their primary rusher. Rodgers isn’t as consistent, but his quickness means he’s much more capable of creating beyond his blocking. The Falcons utilized a lot of traps and pulls in their man blocking, and frankly players like Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett were eating, chewing, and spitting out their blocks like sunflower seeds. I might need a second set of hands to count how many times the Falcons tried to double-team Campbell and he’d still clog the lane or make the tackle. I remember one instance vividly where Justin Blalock pushed Campbell downfield one-on-one, and then Reynolds was supposed to pull into the hole, but it was clogged by another defender and Jackson was stopped for a two-yard gain. Lamar Holmes struggled, but I should note his struggles came largely when he was blocking Campbell or John Abraham one-on-one. That has been the issue throughout this season, where there has been a significant gap in abilities when our blockers face opposing team’s good defensive linemen and/or linebackers. Blalock has been the only player that has shown that he can actually compete with premier opponents this year.  Unfortunately for the Falcons, they face a lot of good defensive linemen and linebackers the rest of the season. So unless the Falcons make a move sooner rather than later, that’s an issue that isn’t going to be solved until the offseason.

PLAYERS
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$5$3$0$0$0$0$8.00
Drew Davis$0$0$7$1$0$0$7.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$5$0$0$0$5.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$1$1$1$0$0$3.00
Kevin Cone$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0-$2$0.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$2-$1$0-$1$0.00
Steven Jackson$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$1$0-$2-$3.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0-$2$0-$1-$3.00

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Ryan Picked Off Four Times in Atlanta’s loss to Arizona

October 27th, 2013 Comments off
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan is sacked by Cardinals linebacker Marcus Benard

Limited hope remains for the 2013 Atlanta Falcons season following a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons record falls to 2-5 and with a tougher schedule upcoming, they may be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of wins on the rest of their schedule. The Falcons got outplayed by the Cardinals from the start, falling into a 21-6 hole at halftime, and any chance of coming back was negated by four second-half interceptions from Matt Ryan.

Ryan struggled, attempting a career-high 61 passes and completing 34 of them for 301 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions. The Falcons ground attack was pathetic, with Ryan leading the team with 13 yards rushing on a single carry. Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 8 yards on a pair of carries, while Steven Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 2 to rush for 6 yards on 11 carries. Harry Douglas led receivers with 12 catches for 121 yards. Drew Davis had 5 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown while Darius Johnson caught 4 passes for 40 yards. Tony Gonzalez was limited to just 3 catches for 26 yards. Matt Bryant connected on both of his field goal attempts of 24 and 30 yards. Matt Bosher punted 4 times for an average of 45.8 yards with 2 punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned a pair of punts for an average of 13.5 yards, while Rodgers had two kickoff returns for a 27-yard average. The team generated only 292 total yards on 79 offensive plays. The Falcons continued to struggle in the red zone, converting only 1 of their 3 trips there. They converted 8 of 20 third down conversion attempts (40-percent), but the story offensively was the fact that four of their five  offensive series ended in turnovers in the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons got gashed by the Cardinals rushing attack early. They gave up 201 rushing yards on 30 carries, including 153 on 13 carries in the first half. Atlanta was somewhat effective against the pass, allowing just 172 passing yards by Carson Palmer on 18 throws, sacking him three times and picking him off once. They even got stops on third down, allowing the Cardinals to convert only 3 of 10 attempts (30-percent). But the damage was done early in the game, with the Cardinals able to put points on the board thanks to some big plays in the first half. Jonathan Babineaux led defenders with 7 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Robert Alford (2 tackles, 1 pass defended); Joplo Bartu (5 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Peria Jerry (1 tackle, 0.5 sacks); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack); Asante Samuel (3 tackles, 1 interception); Desmond Trufant (4 tackles, 1 pass defended); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 44 “Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire”

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined once again by Rashad James, making his second consecutive appearance on the podcast to discuss the Atlanta Falcons win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. We discuss some of the standout players from the game including William Moore, Malliciah Goodman, Harry Douglas, and Desmond Trufant. We also take a look at the play of the Falcons young linebackers and whether or not they have what it takes to turn into good NFL linebackers. In their preview of Week 8, we discuss how much impact a healthy Steven Jackson can bring, whether or not there needs to be changes made at punt returner, how the Falcons left tackle matches up with John Abraham, and whether the Falcons defense can take advantage of Arizona’s lackluster offensive attack.

Ep. 44: Tampa Bay is a Dumpster Fire [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 1 minute

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Moneyball 2013 – Week 7 Review

October 22nd, 2013 Comments off

It was a solid win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons really needed to come out strong after their bye week to get their season back on track.

But after watching the tape, I’m not as impressed with this win as I was initially on Sunday. It’s clear that the Bucs are simply a bad team, and while the Falcons are better, I certainly won’t say that they are a good team. The Bucs really hurt themselves with a bunch of penalties and missed opportunities. While it didn’t reach as bad as their infamous performance in Week 17 of 2011 under Radio Raheem, it’s inching closer to that point. While the Falcons controlled this game from start to finish, the Bucs never took advantage of the numerous opportunities they had to get back into this game. In the end, the Falcons won a game that they should have won, but it doesn’t inspire me with a ton of confidence going forward that the team is going to play significantly better in the coming weeks as they did before the bye.

Despite excellent numbers, Matt Ryan was more solid than spectacular. He made several very good throws, but it seemed like the Falcons had a fairly conservative gameplan in the early going. The Bucs had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary that led to some big plays early such as the two to Harry Douglas in the second quarter. While Douglas gets credit for making the plays, it really was a terrible play on the ball by Leonard Johnson on the 54-yard pass and a blown assignment on Mark Barron on the 37-yard touchdown that are more responsible for those plays more than anything Douglas did in particular.

The key for Ryan was that he got good pass protection throughout the game. While the Falcons weren’t spotless up front, the fact that they allowed no sacks, one pressure, and only four hurries the entire game made all the difference. Lamar Holmes looked his best thus far this year, but then again any decent NFL starter should look fairly good going up against Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Trevor Scott, and Adrian Clayborn. The Falcons did a solid job keeping Gerald McCoy in relative check, as he only had one pressure (vs. Holmes), one hit (vs. Blalock), and one hurry (vs. Reynolds). The Bucs tried to dial up some blitzes, and the Falcons did a fairly solid job picking it up. With time to throw, Ryan was able to locate receivers, particularly Douglas. But so much of the Falcons offense seemed to be devoted to underneath throws to Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers, with five screens to the latter including the one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The running game was very ineffectual, although that was because the blocking was poor up front as nobody really got any push against the Bucs front. Lavonte David was a force against the run, and accounted for both of Peter Konz’s missed blocks in the first quarter.

I noticed the Falcons barely used Levine Toilolo throughout the game, and he got no snaps in the red zone. That was very disappointing given how effective he’s been there the past three games. I’m not sure there’s a good reason why Brian Robiskie and Drew Davis are getting snaps in the red zone, and Toilolo is not.

I know I sound negative, but truthfully the Falcons did what they needed to do, nothing more. The backup receivers in Darius Johnson and Davis, each made nice plays, but considering how many snaps they got, the fact that they really only had 2 catches isn’t very promising. Considering the low expectations however, I can’t complain too much. I’ll just say that I’m very much looking forward to the day that Roddy White is back in the lineup.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
ST
PEN
TOTALS
Matt Ryan$13$0$0$0$0-$1$12.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$9$1$0$0$12.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$9$0$0-$1$8.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Jason Snelling$0$3$0$0$0$0$3.00
Garrett Reynolds$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Jeremy Trueblood$0$0$0$2$0-$1$1.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$1$0$0$1.00
Drew Davis$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$0$0$1.00
Antone Smith$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$0$0$0$0.00

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Takeaways from Week 7

October 21st, 2013 1 comment
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Holmes could be a major difference maker next week

The Atlanta Falcons won on Sunday. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t exactly the stiffest competition in the world, the fact remains that the Falcons won. It seems like it’s been forever since the Falcons won a game.

It’s been five weeks since one of these takeaways columns followed a Falcons win. Such a winless drought hasn’t happened under Mike Smith. And while five-plus years of Mike Smith is small relative to a lifetime, particularly when you’ve been following the Falcons for over two decades like myself, it seems to be forever ago when the Falcons were bad enough where losing three straight games was common.

The hope is that this win against the Bucs is a sign of that things are going back to how they used to be under Smith. It’s certainly easier to be more confident following a win, although I’m not sure what we’ll see in the coming weeks. We’ve really reached the point where you honestly have to take it week by week with this Falcon team. And despite a win on Sunday, the Falcons 2013 season remains on life support. They go on the road against the Arizona Cardinals next week in another winnable game. But with the way the Falcons have played thus far this year, it’s by no means a guaranteed win.

In previous years, you could always count on the Falcons finding a way to win, even if they don’t play their best football. One only has to look at last year’s win over the Cardinals to see exactly that. Matt Ryan threw five interceptions, but thanks to the ineptitude of the opposing quarterbacks John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, who combined for a pathetic 70 passing yards, the Falcons won.

While new Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer isn’t having a great season thus far, he’s certainly more than capable of topping 70 yards should the need arise. And the Cardinals defense hasn’t really dropped off that much from a unit that was among the best in the league a year ago.

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Categories: Features Tags: , , , ,

Douglas Shines in Falcons Win over Buccaneers

October 20th, 2013 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Harry Douglas explodes for a 149-yard game against Tampa Bay

The Atlanta Falcons got their second win of the season with a 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons avoided falling into last place in the NFC South with a win over the winless Bucs. The team held the lead from start to finish, getting a big boost with an early defensive touchdown by Thomas DeCoud.

Matt Ryan led the Falcons with a strong performance despite missing several key receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Ryan completed 20 of 26 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in rushing with a mere 16 yards on 8 carries. Jason Snelling fared no better with 14 yards on 7 carries. Rodgers also led the team’s receivers with 8 catches for 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Harry Douglas also had a brilliant day, catching 7 passes for a career-high 149 yards and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez added a pair of catches for 30 yards in a relatively quiet performance. Matt Bryant hit on his lone field goal attempt of 23 yards. Matt Bosher had 4 punts for an average of 48 yards, with 1 being placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert Alford fumbled his lone punt return of the day, while Rodgers returned his lone kickoff return for 21 yards. Offensively, the Falcons weren’t great, generating only 291 total yards and converted just 3 of 9 third downs. But they were effective in the red zone, converting on 2 of 3 trips and were able to score when necessary with a couple of big pass plays to compensate for a lackluster rushing attack. Ryan connected on five passes of 20 or more yards.

Defensively, the Falcons were pretty solid. While they gave up 337 total yards, much of that was due to the Bucs playing catch-up. They did allow 111 yards rushing on the day, but were able to get off the field on third downs, allowing the Bucs to convert just 5 of 17 attempts there. They also got stops in the red zone, allowing a touchdown only once on the Tampa’s four trips there. The Falcons did generate an early turnover, with a sack-strip by William Moore, leading to a 30-yard touchdown run off the fumble recovery by DeCoud. Joplo Bartu led defenders with 10 tackles, and also added 2.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. Robert Alford (1 tackle, 2 passes defended); DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery); Akeem Dent (4 tackles); Peria Jerry (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss); Jonathan Massaquoi (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks); Robert McClain (2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss); Moore (7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble); Asante Samuel (5 tackles, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (7 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble); Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles); and Paul Worrilow (4 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 43 “More Gangster than Gentleman”

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by friend Rashad James to discuss the Falcons upcoming Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as discuss the many issues that plague the Falcons in 2013. In our preview of the Bucs game, I give my insights to what I saw from the Bucs in their Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and how things could play out on both sides of the ball. We then discuss: 1) Which young receivers can step up in light of Julio Jones injury. 2) Whether the rest of the 2013 season rests on the shoulders of Matt Ryan 3) Whether Levine Toilolo is going to be a key asset for the Falcons offense moving forward 4) What is the Falcons identity? 5) Do the Falcons need to reshuffle their offensive line? 6) Should fans be throwing in the towel at this point? 7) A referendum on Thomas Dimitroff’s job so far as the team’s GM 8) Whether the Falcons need to make a trade for a wideout. We end things as usual recapping some of their observations from other teams around the league, including our joy over the New Orleans Saints’ devastating loss to the New England Patriots.

Ep. 43: More Gangster than Gentleman [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Rashad can be found on twitter: @SaucedUp_Boss

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 42 “The Mayans Were Wrong”

October 12th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back and more sullen than ever as they recap the Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football loss to the New York Jets. Things we discuss: How the Falcons defense made Geno Smith look extremely poised; The offensive line’s struggles and problems that will likely continue the rest of the season; Matt Ryan and Jacquizz Rodgers being two of few bright spots on offense; Concerns over the defense and special teams; Whether Levine Toilolo is the only hope among the Falcons non-star receivers; Whether Robert McClain has played well enough to keep his job; Red Zone Efficiency; I apologize to Osi Umenyiora… Finally we discuss the impact of Julio Jones’ injury and whether trading for a player such as Josh Gordon would be a good move; Trading Tony; How the Falcons can turn their season around; Corey Peters and whether he’s earned a new contract; What happened to Stephen Nicholas?; and finish up with some around the league stuff, where I find a way to call out Drew Davis.

Ep. 42: The Mayans Were Wrong [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Falcons Lose to Jets on Last Second Field Goal

October 8th, 2013 1 comment
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Folk celebrates the game-winning field goal

The Atlanta Falcons dropped another heart-breaker when a last second field goal by kicker Nick Folk lifted the New York Jets to a 30-28 win. The Falcons had been successful with taking a late one-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but their defense failed to get a stop to deliver the team a win. Atlanta’s record falls to 1-4 as they enter their bye week.

Matt Ryan led the way, completing 36 of 45 passes for 319 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. The Falcons running game was led by Jacquizz Rodgers, who rushed for 43 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14 carries. Jason Snelling added 13 yards on 7 carries. Tony Gonzalez led Falcons receivers with 10 catches for 97 yards, on his way to be the second player in NFL history to catch a pass in 200 consecutive games after Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Julio Jones added 8 catches for 99 yards. Snelling had five catches for 10 yards and one of Ryan’s touchdowns. Levine Toilolo had the other on his way to 2 catches for 15 yards. Matt Bryant attempted no field goals as the Falcons found greater success in the red zone. They were able to convert touchdowns four times on five trips. Matt Bosher punted twice for an average 49.5 yards, but had one punt blocked. Harry Douglas returned a pair of punt returns for 22 yards, while Rodgers only returned a single kickoff for 23 yards. The Falcons generated 363 yards of total offense and were able to convert on 6 of 12 third down attempts, while converted on 1 of 2 fourth down attempts. They did manage to turn the ball over once, on a Ryan fumble.

Defensively, the Falcons only allowed 288 total yards from the Jets. Much of those yards came on the ground, as the Jets were able to generate 118 rushing yards. They sacked quarterback Geno Smith four times, but weren’t able to force any turnovers of the rookie passer. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 7 tackles. Jonathan Babineaux (4 tackles); Joplo Bartu (3 tackles, 1 sack); Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles); Omar Gaither (4 tackles); William Moore (3 tackles); Corey Peters (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended); Desmond Trufant (3 tackles, 1 pass defended); Osi Umenyiora (6 tackles, 2 sacks); and Paul Worrilow (6 tackles) had noteworthy games.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 41 “Anonymous Osi”

October 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are back with guest star Tom Melton to discuss the Falcons Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots. The questions we wish to answer this week are: 1) Are the Falcons approaching must-win territory in the coming weeks? 2) Will the Falcons youth movement in the wake of injuries is going to cost them this year? 3) Do the Falcons have enough balance on offense and can they turn things around in the red zone? 4) Just how awesome is Tony Gonzalez really? 5) How effective is the Falcons pass rush and whether the Osi Umenyiora signing is working out? 6) Was Mike Smith’s gutsy 4th down call the right move? 7) Did Mike Nolan’s scheme cost the Falcons the game? … We give our thoughts on the upcoming matchup against the New York Jets, as well as assess the play of the offensive line, receivers, young tight ends, and also look around the league at Josh Freeman’s situation in Tampa Bay.

Ep. 41: Anonymous Osi [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 6 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Bleacher Report. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Tom Melton can be found on twitter: @TMeltonScouting, and also writes for his own draft blog and contributes to Draft Headquarters.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt