THE BRANCH – Bradley Handwerger, a webwriter at WWL in New Orleans, asked me 5 questions about the Falcons.
1.) WWL: Since these teams played on Nov. 2, Atlanta is 2-3. What has happened to the Falcons, who started out 4-3?
Ledbetter: The league’s schedule maker was not very kind to the Falcons. They had to play four teams – San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and the New York Giants – who were coming off byes. While they went 2-2 against those teams they were taking those teams best and rested shots. You wondered if injuries would start to mount. They have and that’s certainly been a factor It was very evident in the Philadelphia game when five starters on offense didn’t play including Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.
2.) WWL: Chris Redman got pummeled in his first game as a starter. Should he start in place of Matt Ryan, who has an injured toe, do you expect a better performance from him?
Ledbetter: Yes. Redman was excellent in relief of Ryan against Tampa Bay. The Falcons played most of the Philadelphia game with three starters along the line – LT Sam Baker, C Todd McClure and RG Harvey Dahl – on the sidelines. McClure went down with a knee in the game and Baker and Dahl were
3.) WWL: When these teams last met, Michael Turner exploded for 151 yards. He’s banged up right now. Do the Falcons have anyone who can burn the Saints on the ground this time?
Ledbetter: It doesn’t appear so. Jerious Norwood has explosive play ability and Jason Snelling is a hard runner.
Norwood is not 100 percent recovered from a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss five games.
4.) WWL: Coach Mike Smith said the Falcons are now in the “Wild Card Division” after the Saints clinched the NFC South this past weekend. What will be the biggest hindrance to the Falcons getting one of the two Wild Card spots?
Ledbetter: If they lose to the Saints they will practically be eliminated. It doesn’t look like 9-7 is going to make it in 2009. But in the alternative the fans will root just as hard for a 9-7 finish. That would give the franchise its first consecutive winning seasons. There would be a major party down Peachtree Street!
5.) WWL: Are the Falcons falling apart?
Ledbetter: Don’t sense that. They are loose and Tony Gonzalez seems to thinks that’s a good think. We’ve seen some recent Falcons teams start fast and then fade. One could sense the impending doom in Jim Mora’s 8-8 and 7-9 seasons. This team is much younger and you don’t get that sense that they’ll stop fighting. “Guys, the sky is not fall,” Smith said on Monday.
(That’ was it. Hope I didn’t come off as homer for the Falcons. Tried to just throw out some facts. Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris called me out for asking about his defensive play calling tendencies, which he’d made a newsworthy issue by firing his DC before the game.)
VILMA ON GONALEZ: Saints linebacker Jonthan Vilma has been providing mini scouting reports each week on his PlayMaker Mobile page. Wednesday he wrote about facing the Falcons and tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Give your answers to the WWL questions. What do you think about Vilma’s take on the game?