Talented Falcons face tougher slate


The Falcons are a better football team this year than they were last year and their schedule will be much more challenging. Those are the two things you can bank on. In the NFL, the rich got richer this offseason in many cases, and while Atlanta added key pieces, so did their opponents. Seattle may be the best example as they added Percy Harvin to their already complex offense.



In the regular season last year, the Falcons were a perfect 10-0 outside of their divisional games. They struggled inside the NFC South, though, going 3-3. Their franchise-best 8-0 start took a lot of pressure off the second half of the schedule, and oddly enough, all four teams (Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay) ended up finishing with a 3-3 divisional record. With all three of the Falcons’ division opponents coming off down years, expect this year’s race to be much more competitive.

The Falcons will have a stretch of games towards the end of next season where they play Seattle at home, then are at Tampa Bay, at home against New Orleans, at Buffalo (in Toronto), at Green Bay, at home against Washington and at San Francisco on Monday Night that will battle test them for the playoffs. The second half of the schedule is brutal and each game will likely resemble a playoff atmosphere.

In 2012-13 it came as a surprise when suddenly the familiar powers of the NFC in recent years had fallen, and Seattle and San Francisco were standing in the Falcons path. This season, the Falcons will get a taste of these teams before the playoffs.

It is Super Bowl or bust with this team, probably for the first legitimate time in the franchise’s history. The weapons are there on this team and everyone knows it. All around the world this season, people will be tuning in to see if they can use them.

The addition of Steven Jackson and the shift on the offensive line are two aspects that can help them reach their goal. With Peter Konz taking center, Phillipkeith Manley and Lamar Holmes coming in the mix, and Baker and Justin Blalock lining up, size will complement this offense’s explosiveness. This offensive lineup will finally give Atlanta a bigger tackle-to-tackle front for short yardage and Jackson will use his force to spill through.

For many years, people believed that Michael Vick provided Atlanta with the most exciting offense to come through the Dome. Nothing against the early 2000’s, but I believe this year’s offense will blow that out of the water.




Thomas Dimitroff is a genius in his profession. Atlanta will likely not tag the genius label to him until he wins a Super Bowl, but since taking the job in 2008, it is a incredible how far this team has come. Arthur Blank got things moving in the right direction in 2002, but it has been the arrival of Dimitroff that has taken the franchise to its “glory days.”

In the 2008 draft, Dimitroff took Matt Ryan and offensive tackle Sam Baker in the first round. The next move was signing free-agent running back Michael Turner from San Diego. Turner made the Pro Bowl and the Falcons were in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Sporting News named him the 2008 NFL Executive of the Year.

In 2009, he traded a second-round pick for 34-year old Tony Gonzalez. In four seasons, Gonzalez has given the Falcons 345 receptions, 225 first downs and 29 touchdowns. In 2010, Dimitroff was also named NFL Executive of the Year and the Falcons took a 13-3 record into the playoffs. A team that was irrelevant for the majority of my childhood now heads into 2013 with a Super Bowl or bust mentality and five straight winning seasons.

Out of the 22 likely starters on this team (offense and defense), all but four were drafted by Atlanta. Gonzalez, Asante Samuels, Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora are the quartet, and a special one at that. A culture of winning is not built in one season. In Atlanta it has been building the past five. We have been patient and success is on its way.


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