FLOWERY BRANCH – The regulars, who stop by the blog, know that my man NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is a favorite in this spot.
(He was on the money during the Matt Ryan draft and we’ve been sticking with him every since.)
Mayock speaks the football gospel.
He’s been out here the last couple of days watching practice. He’ll be your color analyst when the Falcons (8-5) play the Jaguars (4-9) at 8:20 p.m. at the Georgia Dome.
Also, quarterback Matt Ryan will sit down with Deion Sanders during the pre-game show at 6 p.m. on the NFL Network.
In addition to being televised on NFL Network, folks without cable and see it locally on WATL.
Here are some of the highlights of our little football chat:
MAYOCK ON THE NFC PLAYOFF RACE: I think if you’re in Atlanta you’ve got to be pretty happy because you control your own destiny. I think what happened last week worked out to their benefit. I think the bottom line for Atlanta is that they control their own destiny.
ON THE FALCON’S INCONSISTENT PLAY: It’s kind of a funky year. It’s hard to figure out a bunch of these teams. After you get past Green Bay and everybody wants to anoint them, but after get past Green Bay, the Saints are playing extremely well. And it’s kind of interesting to me because I thought Atlanta’s defense played pretty darn competitively against both New Orleans and Green Bay earlier this season. If I remember correctly they only gave up 25 and 26. I think it was 25-14 [against Green Bay] and they loss to New Orleans 26-23. If you look at both of those teams as two of the better teams in the NFC, two teams you may have to get past, the fact that you could hold them to mid-20s [is encouraging.] Now, the offense has got to play better. You have to score more than 14 points to beat Green Bay.
ON THE OFFENSE’S ISSUES: I think the lost of the fullback is hurting them more than people know. [Ovie] Mughelli was one of the top fullbacks in the league over the last several years. I think Michael Turner trusted him explicitly. The [Mike] Cox kid is playing OK. I’m not taking a shot at him. I’m just saying that Mughelli is special.
I think what the Falcons are trying to do is work in the two young kids, Jacquizz Rodgers at tailback and Julio Jones out wide. Julio is trying to figure this league out and it’s kind of an interesting case last Sunday because Julio made two big plays for touchdowns and I loved the throwback to Jacquizz Rodgers out of the backfield. I think they are looking for ways to get these kids more touches. It’s hard for rookies to make a significant impact.
ON THE NO-HUDDLE: They are going more and more to the tempo no-huddle offense. I like that. I’ve got no problem at all with letting Matt Ryan get to the line of scrimmage and call the plays. Now, it looks to me when they up-tempo no-huddle they are a little bit of a different football team and I like it.
ON THE CAROLINA GAME: They looked like two different teams last week. That first half was awful. I thought they tackled poorly. I thought they played about as badly as they could on both sides of the ball. In the second half, they looked like someone who could compete for a Super Bowl.
ON JACKSONVILLE QB BLAINE GABBERT: He’s had a tough year. I thought his best game was last week. He threw a seam pass to Marcedes Lewis. He looked off one way and then came back and threw for 62-yard gain. He looked like, to me, out of all the rookie quarterbacks, and I was really high on him coming out of college, I think he’s struggled the most.
I think you have to understand what this kid is going through. Not only has his head coach been fired. But his quarterbacks coach has moved to wide receivers coach and the wide receivers coach got fired. There is more stuff going on that meets the eye and I think because of all of that you’ve got to give this kid an opportunity to develop. His wide receiver corps is probably the one of the least productive groups in the
If you draft two wide receivers in the first round and they both become busts — Reggie Williams and Matt Jones — then that sets you back in a big way. That whole team is paying for those misses right now.
CAN THE FALCONS GET HOT AND GET ON ROLL GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS?: Absolutely! Would you rather have the first or second seed at home? Maybe? But, the bottom line is to at least get in the tournament. This is a good enough team. They were 13-3 last year and were defeated by the eventual Super Bowl Champion. The whole key is just getting in the tournament. I think you’ve got to get [cornerback Brent] Grimes back healthy. I think he’s a big piece of it. Once you get into the tournament because the Falcons have a quarterback who can play and there are some explosive pieces there, anybody has got a chance at that point.
ON DEFENSIVE END RAY EDWARDS: I think you have to understand what he is and what your levels of expectations for him are. He’s a really solid NFL defensive end. At Minnesota he happened to be on one of the best four-man rushes in the league. You had Jared Allen on one side and the two Williams (Kevin and Pat) inside. So he was always singled up. I think what he is, he’s a good solid player. He’s not an elite sack guy. That’s just not who he is. I would suggest that you look at what you’re getting from the three-man rotation of him, [Kroy] Biermann and [John] Abraham.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog