Your 2014 Atlanta Falcons Season Preview

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With the NFL, there’s always a demand for discussion. In America, the NFL slaughters everything, with all other games a niche sport. Even college football, which clearly comes in second. However, it’s a distant second.

Anyway, let’s get this party started. We continue the never too early season preview series with the Atlanta Falcons.

 Atlanta Falcons-jonathan-babineaux

Overview: 

As Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris say ,”Welcome to Atlanta” DT Paul Soliai and G Jon Asamoah. And this season preview promises to be crunk. Thomas DeCoud, Asante Samuel and Tony Gonzalez took the midnight train leaving Georgia. The Falcons got totally tore up on both sides of the line of scrimmage last year, and GM Thomas Dimitroff said “and the hell with the price cuz the money ain’t a thang” when spending his free agent budget and his draft picks on upgrading both sides of the line.

As you can see from the video below, FOX named the Falcons and the Cardinals two teams to watch this season:

Health will be key. More so for this team than any other in the NFL. The offseason was busy, but the ability of their own players to come back strong and 100% matters more than anyone who’s new to the team. Overall, NOLA has to be the favorite in the NFC NASCAR division. However, Atlanta is their biggest competition. Tampa is starting from scratch; and Carolina’s pleasant season was kind of fluky.

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Offense:

Roddy White and Steven Jackson were clearly not themselves last season. Oh and that Julio Jones guy was missing too. So when you have major injuries like that to your skill position players, and your offensive line kind of sucks, your quarterback is not going to have a great year. Matty Ice has seen better days in his career than he did in 2013. The Falcons fell from 13-3 to 4-12. So yeah, there’s that.

The whole right side of the OL is upgraded. My Illini cohort Asamoah arrives from the Chiefs to play RG and they drafted a franchise tackle in Jake Matthews. Atlanta was 32nd, dead last in rushing last year. And 31st in yards rushing allowed. That’s a losing formula in the NFL. In college football it would be a horrendous formula and in high school football it would be a catastrophic formula.

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Defense:

I still remember this line from the 1996 ESPN the Magazine NFL season preview issue: “opponents continually do to Atlanta what General Sherman did to it in 1864.” Yes, almost 20 years later, and I still recall that sentence. What a different era it was: magazines were something consumed by people not trapped in a dentist office waiting room back then. The line resonated because the Falcons had just gone to the playoffs on the strength of a prolific offense, and a secondary that set a dubious record for passing yards allowed. That was the type of team that Roger Goodell would masturbate to, as they were the ideal structure of today’s NFL: tops in passing, worst against the pass.

But all the players came from far and wide, to upgrade a defense that truly needs it. Atlanta has DB problems again like they did in 1995, but this time it’s not giving huge chunk yardage plays, it’s interceptions. Or lack thereof. Wisconsin Badgers Safety had to be drafted by this team, or at least some team in the Durrty South.

But I like the Ra’Shede Hageman pick much more. He’s an unsung hero for the surprise season the Gophers had and his game translates to the NFL.

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Check out this video the Falcons draft grade

 Special Teams/Odds and Ends: 

To quote Outkast “I like the way you move” Devin Hester. The Atlanta Falcons now have the greatest return man in league history. Unfortunately, he’s not headed to the Hall of Fame and he’s essentially a hood ornament for this team. Not an engine. The league decided that kick returns don’t matter all that much anymore and you can’t get Canton on just being a RS.

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Bottom Line: It’s really looking like 9-7 to 7-9 or somewhere thereabouts. The talent is there. However, it’s impossible to predict injuries, as Atlanta Falcons found out too well. The Falcons and Saints are natural rivals. They came into existence at almost the exact same time and they’ve grappled for divisional power back and forth. This year will be now different. But the Saints are a notch or two above.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports and Yahoo! He’s been a guest on news talk shows all across the world. He’s also a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune RedEye edition. Banks has been featured in numerous media outlets including NFL.com, Forbes, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, ESPNNBCCBS, the History Channel and more. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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