Sunday, August 21, 2005
The Atlanta Falcons aka "The One Man Gang"
As most of you know, the "One Man Gang" wasn't very good. He beat up on the little guys but that was the extent of his success. The Falcons with Vick are no different. The story gets old but let's be honest here, the Falcons live and die by Vick. If he has a good game, they can contend with anyone. If he has a bad game, they can lose to anyone like last year against the Lions. Atlanta's offense is a contradiction. They dominate in time of possession but don't put up many points. It's a kin to "Marty ball" but instead of having a workhorse running back eating up the clock, it's the quarterback that runs the clock.
I think Matt Schaub is a very talented quarterback. I honestly think that he could do as well for the Falcons as Vick if not better. Schaub is a gamer and if Vick gets hurt, I would not be surprised if Atlanta doesn't miss a step. Remember, Vick had 17 touchdowns in 15 games last season. That's passing and rushing. That's not a typo. He threw and ran for 17 touchdowns total touchdowns. Vick is the quarterback. His goal is to lead the team to scores yet he barely accounts for one touchdown per game. I love watching Vick. He's an amazing runner. But, his numbers are deplorable for a quarterback.
Vick wants to prove to everyone that he can throw the football. As a result, Vick will tell everyone that he's going to run less. Vick throwing more would be like dressing the "One Man Gang" up in yellow African garb and calling him "Akeem the African Dream". It just doesn't work. The blueprint to beat the Falcons was used to perfection in the NFC title game last year. Jeremiah Trotter and the rest of the Eagles were all over Vick. If you shut down Vick's scrambling then you shut down Atlanta. If Vick was a reliable thrower, then Philly would've had problems.
The wide receivers aren't anything to write home about. The good news is that Brian Finneran went from #1 on the depth chart two years ago to #4 on the depth chart this season. Michael Jenkins, Peerless Price, and Roddy White are all decent but not spectacular. Atlanta led the league in rushing yards per game last year with Vick, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. I don't expect there to be any changes. Atlanta will win games. They will play boring football (despite having the most electrifying player in the NFL). They will control time of possession. They'll beat the bad teams and lose to the great teams.
They'll be above average on defense. Believe it or not, the best defender on the team is Vick. He keeps the offense on the field so long that the defense is a). always fresh and b). eliminates the opponent from being able to score a lot of points. Aside from giving up 800 points to Kansas City last year, Atlanta was one of the league's better defensive teams. DeAngelo Hall is an excellent cover corner. Keith Brooking is a menace at middle linebacker. The defense will give them a chance to win every week.
The schedule is brutal. In fact, I can honestly say I have never seen a more difficult NFL schedule. They play one weak team and that's Chicago in December at Soldier Field. Atlanta won't be a bad team but I don't see them making the playoffs with that schedule.
I know most of, if not all, the major publications will have Atlanta in the playoffs. I know it's chic to think that they're the rising team in the NFL. However, I have not been impressed at all by this team. Most people just assume that Atlanta is one of the better teams in the league but they benefited last season from a very easy schedule. Six of their ten wins were by four points or less. If they played this year's schedule last season, there's no way they would've made the playoffs. One thing I can say with complete confidence is that if a team from this division wants to make the playoffs, they'll have to win the division. Every team in this division is good. That means each team will have six games against good competition within the division. Also, since this division is matched up against the AFC East (possibly the toughest division in football) that's four more difficult games. I think it'll be difficult for a team from the South to get the wild card. I think Carolina has a better chance of winning the division. Thus, I think Vick and Co. will be home in January.
Predicted record: 8-8