Falcons Bye Week Questions

Can Birds Keep Their Mojo After Bye Week?

Will Ryan Have a Better 2nd Half? (AP)

The Atlanta Falcons earned a much needed win in Detroit and gave themselves and fans a big boost heading into their bye week. It comes almost at a perfect time with several injuries needing healing and following a pretty grueling first part of the schedule. Seemingly, the road gets a little easier with 5 of their final 8 games being played in the Home Sweet Georgia Dome, where they’ve played pretty darn well for the most part. Have the Falcons turned it around after an initial rough patch? Or do land mines lurk ahead? Some questions to ponder during the break………..

1) Is the Worst Over?

It was a really bad stretch for the Birds to start the season. They collapsed in Chicago against the Bears, losing a game many fans thought they would win. They come back home to huge win (at the time) against Michael Vick and the Eagles. Then perhaps their worst loss came when they absolutely should have won against the Bucs on the road, leaving tons of missed opportunities and playing very sloppy football. They look fantastic for a half in Seattle and tried everything in their power to give that one away.

They come home to host the defending Super Bowl champs and exorcise yet another demon with a magnificent first half of football, only to completely fall apart in the second half and blow a 14 point lead at home. They play decent football against the upstart Panthers only to let them back in the game, but seemed to hit another gear in the 4th quarter to finish them off. Perhaps the best game to date was the big win on the road against a 5-1 Detroit team, where the defense in particular looked as good as it ever has since Smith and Van Gorder took over.

The road ahead in the next 9 games seems to be a bit easier, if you want to call any game in the NFL easy. After going on the road to play a winless Indianapolis Colts team (a game that obviously should be a win), they return home for a nice little Home Sweet Georgia Dome stretch. They host the Saints, Vikings, and Titans in consecutive weeks, and play the 2-5 Jaguars on Thursday Night Football in December. Of course they also have to play the Panthers in Charlotte and the Saints in New Orleans, but it seems as though the second half of the schedule is a touch easier than the first.

2) Can We Get More HD and Quizz, Please?

Can Gonzo and Co. Bust Out? (AP)

The Falcons favorite buzzword for the off-season was that famous “explosion,” that has really yet to materialize and really just focused mainly on the addition of Julio Jones. Well, the Falcons also have plenty of other weapons that can add some much needed explosion to the offense in Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers. It must be a challenge having to get so many players enough touches, but Douglas and Rodgers have shown they have an excellent burst in space.

Harry Douglas reminded everyone of his rookie year in Detroit on that fantastic long catch and run against the Lions that added a big jolt to the offense and helped quiet down a stadium of fans who were trying to get back in the game. Jacquizz Rodgers just doesn’t lose yards when he gets the ball. Needing only a first down to end the game, Rodgers got the ball on a sweep and it looked doomed from the outset with so many Lion defenders around. But the little package of dynamite made a spectacular run, spinning, and willing himself to get the first down. Just a reminder of how talented this offense is with Michael Turner, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, and Jacquizz Rodgers.

3) Has the Defense Turned the Corner?

Here’s hoping against jinx on this question, because the last time many fans asked this was after the Saints home loss in 2010, where the defense played as good as they ever have, putting pressure on Brees, playing aggressive, and hitting hard. Of course then they were made into mincemeat in the playoffs only a few weeks later. That being said, though, they looked pretty darn good in Detroit, showing flashes of brilliance with blitzes, pressure, good coverage, and limiting a potent offense to only 1 3rd down conversion in 10 tries.

The defensive line is getting good pressure with Babineaux, a very strong Corey Peters, Abraham, and Ray Edwards. The linebackers are living up to many fans beliefs that this is one of the most talented groups to come through in a while. Lofton, Nicholas, and especially Weatherspoon, are showing how well they can cover and get after the quarterback. Brent Grimes just played very well against the best receiver in the game right now and even Dunta Robinson has seemed to settle down. Thomas DeCoud was ranked in the top 5 in interceptions and William Moore continues to grow as a hard-hitting strong safety. Maybe the truly have turned the corner with no more setbacks.

4) Will Offense Change with Ovie Out?

Peters Has Been Awesome Surprise (AP)

It was a tough loss to find out that Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli is lost for the year with a torn MCL. The tough-as-nails fullback was a key to getting the running game back on track and opening huge holes for Michael Turner. Mughelli also provided a nice blocking back for Matt Ryan when the offensive line was having trouble.

The question now turns to what will happen to the Falcons offense. Will they just plug in Jason Snelling and do the same things as they did with Mughelli? Or will they open up the offense a little more with Snelling’s excellent catching ability out of the backfield? This probably does mean that both Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers will be getting more touches in the backfield. Will the run game suffer without the superb blocking fullback in the game? We’ll find out very soon in the next few weeks.

5) How Will Julio Fit Back into the Offense?

After a career game in Seattle, Julio Jones pulled up with a hamstring injury early on against the Packers at home. Even though Jones is having a heck of a rookie season, the Falcons somehow have a better winning percentage (2-0) without him than with him (2-3). This has been a hot topic for many fans, claiming that the trade was a bust since the Falcons offense seems more in sync without Julio than with him. That’s a false dichotomy in saying that just because Julio is out, that the Falcons are better.

Many factors are in play here. Maybe it has taken the Falcons coaching staff awhile to integrate such an explosive player into an offense that has had some of the same cast for years. Maybe it was the lost off-season where coaches didn’t have a chance to work with Julio in real action (Jones certainly did his part by being at every single activity the Falcons had during the lockout and learning the playbook). Perhaps Matt Ryan feels as though he has to get Julio the ball more than others because of the draft trade. Or maybe it’s just an inability by Mularkey and Co. to develop a dynamic offense that includes Jones, among other players. Either way, thinking that the Falcons are better without one of the most dynamic players in all of the last year’s draft (and who has proven it already in the NFL) is pretty hard to stomach.

6) Your Prediction the Rest of the Way

Dent and Special Teams Have Improved (AP)

The Falcons are 4-3 with 9 games remaining and 5 of those are at home. The Saints and Bucs have suffered losses in consecutive weeks so the NFC South appears to be wide open. What’s your thoughts on how the Birds will do the rest of the way? What will the Falcons need to do to A) win the NFC South and B) just make the playoffs. Will they need to go 7-2 or will 6-3 get them in with the topsy-turvy nature of this NFL season? What games will they HAVE to win and what games could they drop and still have a chance?

Your Turn

Have a go at the Falcons bye week questions…………

595 comments Add your comment


October 31st, 2011
3:46 pm

Greetings Cage Family! — :grin: Sorry for the long delay guys and gals. Been swamped at work and tried to get this post up Friday, but just ran out of time. Back in the swing again, so no more down time.


Paddy O

October 31st, 2011
4:17 pm

I’d like to think we’ll go 9-0.


October 31st, 2011
4:35 pm

To win the South they will have to go 8 & 1, 7 & 2 will win a wild card for sure, 6 & 3 will be tough because of the dividion losses. Barring major injuries I believe the Falcons will go 7 & 2.
The Falcons WILL RISE


October 31st, 2011
4:37 pm

Paddy O, the team is capable of going 9-0 and I’d be fine with that also. By adding a little pessimism and realism in there, I think 7-2 is very doable.

Die Hard Falcon

October 31st, 2011
4:49 pm

I think we need to go 7-2 to make the playoffs a guarantee. 10-6 didn’t do it for the Giants last year, the problem is all of our losses have been conference losses which hurts us in a tiebreaker, plus the Bears have the same record as us right now and have beat us head to head, same w/ Tampa (although they appear to be fading and I don’t think they’ll be our competition). To win the division, the answer is simple: beat the aints and bucs, if we sweep those games and go 7-2 or 8-1, we’ll win the NFC South and have the #2 seed behind the stupid packers. Beating the aints twice is almost impossible, but I still believe we’ll be okay if we split w/ them, beat tampa and win 7 out of 9. If we only win 6, it’s a crapshoot and we won’t be “Master of our destiny”, fight hard the rest of the way, win the games we’re supposed to and pull out a couple tough ones and we’re there, after that, lets get a playoff win already, it’s been far too long.
My predictions are:
1.aints (1 W, 1 L)
2.bucs (W)
3.panthers (W)
4.Vikings (W)
5.Texans (L)
6.Colts (W)
7.Jags (W)
8.Titans (W)
7-2 over the last 9. 11-5, unfortunately I could see the aints winning everything except against us at the GA Dome, so I think they’ll edge us out at 12-4, I hope I’m wrong, the Rams awesome performance could signal collapse or give them a wake up call, we’ll see.


Die Hard Falcon

October 31st, 2011
4:52 pm

My post got ate up by the blog monster, what triggers this beast. I didn’t use profanity or even anything controversial

Die Hard Falcon

October 31st, 2011
4:52 pm

Sure, they one I post not saying anything shows up.

Die Hard Falcon

October 31st, 2011
4:53 pm

I don’t feel like retyping all of my great words again, so my prediction is 7-2, losing to the aints in NO and the Texans game

Eric C.

October 31st, 2011
5:42 pm

I’m kind of surprised that Atlanta is only a 7 to 8 pt favorite at Indy…figured it might be at least 9 or 10?

Great Falconi

October 31st, 2011
5:51 pm

We’ll be favored in six or seven of the rest of our games. My guess is that we’ll probably win six more. I haven’t seen enough up to this point to lead me to believe we can go on a 7-2 or 8-1 run to finish this out.

Convince me otherwise, dudes.


October 31st, 2011
6:10 pm

The Patriots just got exposed. The Saints looked awful against the Rams. Those teams have real issues they might not be able to address. We have shown progress in most areas week to week. It’s the NFL, most teams (except one) lose games. The teams we lost to are at least pretty good so we are winning the games we absolutely should.

D3, when I brought up the Julio stats it was to chide the organization for not finding a way to incorporate him. When we paid so much, my biggest concern was over the history of WR busts. That was the one thing that Julio could show one way or the other. He has shown he can play at a high level. Once again, my big concern is how can you be so focused on getting explosive that you will commit so many resources (draft picks) to it and then seem to have no idea how to utilize these types of players. We haven’t used Snelling as a pass catcher this year. Harry Douglas was not really well used last year after moving back to the slot.

Julio has justified the investment why can’t Mike Mularkey, Matt Ryan, and the OL? With some effort on their part, he makes this team much better. I fully expect people to say I am arguing we shouldn’t have made the pick just because we can’t properly utilize the player. I am saying learn how to utilize the player.


October 31st, 2011
6:18 pm

Games we should in no way lose: Colts, Jaguars
Teams that have a puncher’s chance: Tennessee, Minnesota, Carolina
Teams that pose a challenge: New Orleans (2), Tampa Bay, Texans

We should win the top two lines of games (5 teams). I think it is possible we could lose one of the middle line games (3 teams) but it would be a disappointing loss. So to me, if you split the last 4, that is 7-2. We usually split with the Saints so I think we will have at least one loss. I think we beat Tampa at home. Texans are on the road so that is probably the next best bet for a loss.

At worst, I see us winning 6 games if we get upset by the Titans, Vikings, or Panthers which would only be good enough if we beat the Saints twice and Bucs.


October 31st, 2011
6:31 pm

I’ll stick with my preseason prediction picks:
At Colts win
Saints win
Titans win
Vikings win
At Texans lose
At Panthers win
Jaguars win
At Saints lose
Bucs. win

Heyward gets on base now

October 31st, 2011
6:49 pm

At Colts win
Saints win
Titans win
Texans win
Vikings win
Panthers win
Jags win
At Saints lose
Bucs win

I think the only games we are in danger of losing are against the Texans, and both Saints games. I think we’ll beat the Texans and the Saints at home, but lose to the Saints on the road.

The Saints will not beat us twice.

Ken Strickland

October 31st, 2011
6:59 pm

For us to get back in this thing, it’s not just how many teams we defeat, but who we defeat. We have to win all of our remaining division gms, plus the gms we should win. As far as us having turned the corner, especially on DEF, I’m very cautiously optimistic.

I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever in DC BVanGorder or Smitty when it comes to DEF. Neither seems to have a clue when it comes to dealing with what teams in this era are doing. They definitely haven’t shown an ability to recognize what teams have been doing, like stacking the middle. Otherwise, why would they continue running one failed play after another up the middle on the 1st play of every series over 80% of the time?

After finishing at or near the bottom of the league in overall pass DEF, 3rd down DEF, and 20+yd pass plays allowed for 4yrs running, how many competent, intelligent HCs or DCs would hesitate for one gm, let alone 4 seasons, before even considering making adjustments? I’m sorry, but that’s just downright incompetence at it’s worst.

Offensively, every skill position player we have, except WR JJones, was a Probowler last yr, plus we have a Probowl RT. With that kind of recognized talent, there’s no way in hell we should be struggling with inconsistency in running or passing the ball. There seems to be an extremely slow uptake when it comes to a willingness to accept that a problem even exists.

And if or when they do realize one exists, they play the blame gm and start pointing fingers at everything and everyone but themselves. It’s taken them far, far too long just to make the limited adjustments we’ve seen in spots over the past 2-3gms for me to expect them to turn things around. I see Smitty, VanGorder and Mularkey making enough adjustments to turn things around. But as soon as they feel the team has turned the corner, I see them reverting back to the things that got us in this mess in the first place.

Day One Fan

October 31st, 2011
7:15 pm

I think the biggest change in the defense is that they are starting to do what many on here have been clamoring for. More man-to-man, bump and run in the secondary. Why do you think DRob seems to be improving?


October 31st, 2011
8:01 pm

I’ll wait and see whether this defense has officially turned the corner. It was impressive what they did to Cam Newton, seeing that he came into the game a legitimate threat. And I like what they did against the Lions, but again, I’ll wait and see if they can string together a couple of more good performances before I’d say they’ve turned the corner.

I will say though, there are people starting to notice the talent we have on this defense. From a chatwrap conducted by Pat Y on ESPN.com:

Mat (Denver)

“How about that Falcons D? Think we can ride that on the way to the playoffs?”

Pat Yasinskas (1:06 PM)

“Their defense seems to be coming on. Weatherspoon is really starting to shine. They’ve got plenty of talent on the defense, just need it to all work together and there have been signs that’s starting to happen.”


Guys like Spoon, Peters, and Grimes have definitely made an impression on a number of folks in the media. I’ve read a couple of articles now that have mentioned guys on the Falcons defense that should make Birds fans pretty ecstatic about what’s to come.


October 31st, 2011
8:11 pm

Regarding how the Birds will do the remainder of the season…

I’m very much optimistic. Looking at the schedule will do that to most Falcons fans. The Falcons absolutely need to take full advantage of the upcoming month.

@ Indy…which I have as a W.

Followed by 3 home games:

vs Saints
vs Titans
vs Vikings

I have all three of these as wins. It’s crazy to think we could be sitting very pretty at 8-3 a month from now seeing how inconsistent we’ve been for much of the year. I honestly believe the only team that has the pure talent to give us any trouble at home of the teams we play the next month are the Saints. However, I see us splitting with them this season, so I’ll take the Birds at home.

8-3…at worst 7-4 a month from now. But, I’ll stand by 8-3.

In my books, it’s a race to 11 wins. I think 11 wins gets us into the playoffs, and who knows, could be good enough to take the NFC South crown? We hold tiebreakers over Detroit and Philly if we’re fighting for a wild card spot. If we have a strong month here in November, no way I see our Falcons missing out on the playoffs.

8-3 a month from now, make it happen Falcons!

Unca' Bob

October 31st, 2011
8:31 pm

Day One Fan,

What no one has stated, press coverage (bump and run) can be done with either man or zone…Just a thought.

Unca' Bob

October 31st, 2011
8:43 pm

Ken Strick,

We do seem to be loaded with Pro-Bowl Players. Because of our 13-3 record last year and not being SB bound, Coach M Smith and Co. picked alternates to the Pro-Bowl. Perhaps that alone should temper some thoughts about Pro-Bowl talent. Make no mistake, some are indeed, some maybe not so much. Pick your choose, I have mine. And I know you have yours. Best guess, we’re both wrong(LOL).


October 31st, 2011
8:54 pm

Tough to lose Ovi, but even more important factors for getting the O in synch around all that talent is the O line (getting better) and O penalties (please, please, get better).

Unca' Bob

October 31st, 2011
8:59 pm


Keeping the Mojo has been my biggest concern. After showing many signs of perhaps turning that elusive corner, my thoughts turn to the what if? What if they were given too much time off? Can they come back and sustain the same, or perhaps, elevated level of play? Do we digress?

Screen Pass

October 31st, 2011
9:03 pm

Happy Halloween cage. Good luck with the little tykes and have fun.

“What no one has stated, press coverage (bump and run) can be done with either man or zone…Just a thought.” UB

Tis very true UB, I think or at least hope most around here have a grasp off what some of our defensive possibilities are. I like the game that was called in Detroit and our players executed pretty darn well. The number of adjustments a DC can make are staggering, it was nice to see a few more than normal used. I’m holding off on predicting wins until I see more consistency in a few key spots..we have the talent to be real damn good. Can the players and coaches get it together? We’ll see soon enough.


October 31st, 2011
9:15 pm

Well, now Baldwin joins rookie WRs with a TD catch. Was already leading in fights.

Unca' Bob

October 31st, 2011
9:19 pm

Screen Pass,

I’m no seer either. If I were, I would win the $240 Million dollar Lottery.

Ken Strickland

October 31st, 2011
9:23 pm

UNCA’BOB-If we come out next week with more of the same conservative, predictable run up the middle on 1st down of almost every series BS, I’m through with this team. The same holds true on DEF. We’ve seen enough positive results from doing what needs to be done to make a committment to change, like:

1-Running outside more often
2-Using our RBs as receiving options
3-Attacking the DEF rather than taking the WE’LL TAKE WHAT THE DEF GIVES UP APPROACH(which is pure BS, because over the last few yrs DEFs have stacked the line and given us the outside, and we’ve refused to take advantage of it)
4-Playing more man to man and less zone
5-Playing our CBs closer to the WRs
6-Using more than 3 receiving options

I watched the Eagles/Cowboys gm and saw something from the Eagles DEF that I haven’t seen in recent memory. In fact, one of the announcers commented on it. They actually got pressure on the QB from their DL without a lot of blitzing. They did it by using a lot of DL stunts. I wish our coaching staff had enough sense to understand and/or appreciate the advantages of using that concept.

When we signed CB DRobinson, I remember Smitty’s explanation for why we did it. He said he wanted CBs who could stay with their man longer and give our DL an extra couple of seconds to get to the QB. And what does this fool do, he plays zone almost exclusively and plays his CBs 8-10yds off the WR. HOW STUPID AND CONTRADICTORY IS THAT?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that we’ve been subjected to Smitty’s conservative, predictable, extremely slow to change approach so long, that we’re actually getting excited over what amounts to very limited, periodic, but long overdue, OFF/DEF adjustments.

Unca' Bob

October 31st, 2011
9:31 pm


Breath deep.


October 31st, 2011
9:35 pm

Ken, I’ve heard qualudes work in certain situations.

Day One Fan

October 31st, 2011
9:51 pm

@UB, I agree totally. I am only asking why it took so long for BVG or (more than likely) CMS to take the hint? Seems to be working. Our guys need to keep it up.


October 31st, 2011
9:54 pm

Ken, I cannot disagree with anything you said except “I’m through with this team if”. Both you and I know that is not true. Win or lose, the following week you will be sweating out every play just as the rest of us will be! That’s not being negative at you my friend. A fan is a fan and you are one.


October 31st, 2011
9:54 pm

Trick or Treat eh? Nice treat seeing Aints lose. Be a better trick if somehow the Aints and tampa both lose in the same game on sunday … yes, it would be a great trick. Or should we have Mora call in wondering what to do in case of a tie? HA But be nice to have those 2 beat each other up and have NO spend their energy on a revenge game before coming here to GA dome for us to smack em around a bit.

FFL Alert.. yes the Owls have now won 2, and in a row.. where as JJ has lost 2…tides changing?

Mr Charlie

October 31st, 2011
9:55 pm

I think our success is due to Spoon starting to play pro bowl caliber football, and our D line controlling the line of scrimmage.


October 31st, 2011
10:24 pm

I think our future for this season looks very good since, not only Spoon, but the rest of the players TD has put together are starting to come together. The rest of the season should change the entire attutude of this blog, if it goes like I think it will.
We’ll see.


October 31st, 2011
11:24 pm

9-0 all the way. I like the Eagles mindset right now. They feel like every game is a must win. The Falcons need to have that mindset as well. It’s an 11 game run to the Super Bowl and every single one of them is a must win.

I’m very optimistic that we’ve turned the corner on defense. In fact I’d go so far as to say the only thing that can derail the defense is if the offense bogs down and makes them stay on the field for 40+ minutes a game.

On offense, as much as I hate to lose Ovie, if Snelling picks up that slack, then Quizz will have to get the touches to rest Michael Turner. That can only be a good thing. If we can get more diversity in the passing game, and Ryan plays up to his potential, the offense should score 30 a game.

It’s not only possible, it is highly likely. Pressure Brees and you beat the Saints. We are simply better than every other team on the schedule.

And as for integrating Julio, the debate raging on the previous blog seemed to miss the very obvious fact that Julio is a significant upgrade to our WR corps. It’s equally clear that with just 2-4 more on target deep throws he would have a few touchdowns and probably lead all rookies in yards. We’d likely have won at least one more game. I’m not into speculating whether or not draft picks lost will cost this team anything long term. A good GM will get the players we need to be competitive. So the only question is whether Julio can help the team. That’s a stupid question given the observable data. I’d be willing to bet quite a bit that Julio still gets his 1000 yards and is a major factor down the stretch for us this season.


November 1st, 2011
12:14 am

DHunt that was exactly my point. Since he is an upgrade why are we scoring more without him over that last two years? A better player that hasn’t made us a better team according to the observable data: points. As you mentioned, him and Ryan haven’t got the timing down and we just lost another two weeks to an injury. We have all criticized the playcalling that seems to not utilize our pieces. We still don’t know what to do with a vertical WR and seem to have forgotten how to use the slot too.

The amazing part to me is that the organization is committed to the move and Julio has shown the tools but haven’t been able to make it work consistently. If they can, we have a chance to keep pace with scoring teams and win a playoff game; if they can’t, I just don’t know if we get past the first round.

It’s like having the fastest car in NASCAR week-in and week-out but not finishing in the top 5. You can’t just say we have the fastest car so let’s just keep doing what we are doing. Or you can look for the areas you need improvement as a race team.


November 1st, 2011
12:21 am

From Pat Y today:

Like the other NFC South coaches, with the exception of Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris, Atlanta’s Mike Smith is generally very guarded with injury information.

But that changed a bit Monday. Maybe it was because Smith was in a good mood as his team returned to work after a bye week. But the coach actually revealed some injury information on a day when he didn’t have to. The Falcons aren’t required to put out an injury report until Wednesday.

But Smith told the Atlanta media that receiver Julio Jones returned to practice for the first time after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Smith didn’t elaborate on Jones’ status, but the fact he practiced obviously is a good sign.

The Falcons won the two games they played without Jones. There’s no doubt Atlanta is a more talented team with Jones than without him. But, as I’ve written before, I think Jones’ injury might help the Falcons in the long term.

Early in the season, the Falcons seemed to be trying to force the downfield passing game with Jones and Roddy White and they didn’t have much success with it. In recent weeks, they’ve turned back to basics. They’ve been using Michael Turner and the running game as the backbone of their offense.

That’s a good thing. The Falcons have reminded opposing defenses that Turner can do a lot of damage. Defenses have to make dealing with Turner a priority. With that happening again, the Falcons can build on it.

They won’t have to try to force things to happen downfield. With Turner running well and Jones returning to good health, maybe the downfield passing game will start to flow naturally.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2011
1:52 am

Great to see another blog back up, D3 !

Big Ray

November 1st, 2011
3:18 am

1) I am inclined to believe the worst is over. The Falcons did get back to doing what they knew how to do, and I also believe that would have had to happen whether Julio was injured or not. It just had to happen. Mike Smith won’t let the ship start listing again. If for some reason this does happen, somebody high up in the CS loses their job at season’s end. It’s more likely to be a Coordinator….But I don’t see a collapse coming unless there is a major injury to a key player.

2) Here is where I have a hard time not being harsh on the CS. HD has been here, so we know what he can do when fully healthy. However, he doesn’t seem to get the ball unless we’re running the no huddle. In scripted plays, he doesn’t get targeted much, or so it seems to me. And when he does, it’s the same old predictable plays that don’t allow for much YAC. Or a downfield misfire.

As for Quizz, I can understand a certain amount of “working him in there slowly” attitude, but it’s not like the guy has been missing his blocking assignments. And it’s not like he doesn’t get yardage when he’s asked to. In fact, he gets yardage (sometimes more than should be possible) damn near EVERY time he gets the ball. At some point, he has to be mixed into the game more than he is now. He can’t help us if he doesn’t get the ball, and since we don’t normally run plays for RBs that don’t involve running inside or outside the tackles with a 250+ RBs…defenses would never see it coming. Especially if it’s a pass play…But as I’ve said before, The Process is a bit slow in this area. Well designed plays have to be there first, along with an aggressive attitude. After that comes trying them and seeing what works best. Then comes incorporating them into the normal repertoire. We’re still in the first stage of all that….

3) Absolutely. The front four can’t seem to stay as healthy as we’d like, and the part that hurts the worst is John Abraham’s mounting injuries. However, Ray Edwards is warming up fairly nicely (not enough yet, but close), Babineaux is steady if not 100% healthy (probably 80-85%), Corey Peters looks like a starter for the next 7+ years, and the QB pressure is mounting. Backups like Walker, Biermann, and Sidbury have shown some contributions as well, though Biermann has yet to separate himself from that group the way we’d hoped. All the same, the D-line is getting better by the moment.

The secondary has made strides, and Brent Grimes continues to show his Pro Bowl skills from game to game, but that may not be the big story.

Fact is, the most solid unit may be the linebackers, and while Lofton continues to toil effectively in relative silence (leads team in tackles), it’s Sean Weatherspoon who looks like he’s our new X-factor on defense. Weatherspoon’s speed and burgeoning “total field” awareness has indicated that he may be the playmaker we’ve needed for some time, and precisely what Thomas Dimitroff had in mind when he made the pick a couple years ago. Weatherspoon has 2 sacks and leads the team in tackles for loss.

A tweak in philosophy by the CS seems to have helped as well, recognizing that a healthier mixture of man-to-man coverage at the right times can make a difference against even the best offenses.

4) A tough question. Nobody blocks like Mughelli does. Snelling should prove capable of doing the job, but he won’t hammer some guys the way Mughelli has thanklessly done (admit it, you rarely hear or say much about the fella). Will that keep Turner from breaking some nice runs? It shouldn’t, really. Some of the most important blocks happen on the offensive line, Mughelli’s job is to help Turner get through the second level. On the other hand, with Snelling’s ability to hit the hole slightly quicker than Turner, and being a better pass-catching RB, this opens up the possibility of some trickery. Will Smith and Mularkey take advantage of this, or will they get even more conservative? The difference between the two may ultimately be the difference between stalemating ourselves in the run game, or enjoying offensive success by not letting defenses dictate to us. This could also open up other options that involve Quizz.

5) That’s probably the toughest question. Julio has shown that his own personal skills are obviously not the issue in any way or form. Yes, he could stand to clean up his routes, but find me a rookie WR that doesn’t need to work on that. Of course, Julio and Matty Ice have yet to form the kind of bond that Ryan has with Roddy White, as well. Yet despite all of that, and missing two games due to injury, several of Julio’s game-to-game stats are superior to every other WR on the roster. His talent and skills are unique.

The Falcons’ record with/without Julio is a product of the team trying to be something different than what they were. The correlation between wins and losses as it relates to whether Julio was playing or not is a fallacy. The true correlation that needed to be made was wins/losses and our balance of attack. The numbers show that if we keep the number of rushing attempts fmoderately close to the number of pass attempts, we have succeeded this season. Every one of our three losses showed a very uncharacteristic imbalance between pass attempts and run attempts. At Chicago, we tried to pass 33 more times than we tried to run (47 to 14). We just gave up on the run up there. Against Green Bay, we ran it 20 times, passed it 39 times. Against Tampa, we ran 15 times, passed it 47 times.

By contrast, in our wins, the difference was never that pronounced between passing and running attempts. We beat Philly by passing it 37 times and running it 31 times. We beat Carolina running it 26 times and passing it 35 times. Detroit was beaten with 35 pass attempts and 31 rush attempts. Seattle? Despite the defense falling apart and getting eaten up in zone coverage, it was a 42 pass, 36 rush attack that won out.

The CS has not had the plays in place to take advantage of Harry Douglas’ abilities, let alone Julio’s. And to be fair, the lockout played a bigger part in this than we really want to admit to, I think. What would have and should have been looked at, tinkered with, and implemented during OTAs, camp, and preseason instead was force-fed in regular season games. The results were quite ugly, as we saw. So now it’s back to the drawing board. Will this mean fewer “explosive” play attempts for our passing game? Probably. At least at first. But with Julio’s ability and Ryan’s no huddle prowess, don’t look for all of the razzle dazzle to go away. Douglas and Ryan hooked up for quite an explosive play against the Lions, meaning that these things can and will change, but it’s going to take longer than we wanted it to.

How long is up to the CS and the players (execution/health).

6) I hate doing predictions. However, I’m going to say that 10-6 is sufficient for a wild card berth, and maybe more. The Falcons absolutely MUST cut back on the penalties, and that is #1 in my book for keeping their current momentum. Health is the next thing. Those who are playing in place of injured starters must keep up the good work. Props to Will Svitek for his performance, props to Corey Petes playing in place of Peria Jerry (looking like a permanent move to me). I seriously doubt that we get away from our offensive gameplan now that we have re-focused on what works, but finding ways to beat teams when they manage to put the cuffs on Turner will also be key. In my opinion, all of that revolves around Ryan and the no huddle offense. If Ryan’s protection stays steady and he starts hitting on more of his passes, we’re good to go. If protection issues become a factor again and/or Ryan throws INTs and overthrows his guys…we’re in trouble. Play calling will be a factor here as well.

The way things are going, New Orleans is not the shoe-in to win the NFC South that they were starting to look like early on, and Tampa currently looks incapable of holding onto their own spot, much less taking the division. The problem is that we already lost to Tampa, so we simply MUST outperform them over the long haul and not get into a tie-breaker situation. This is where 10-6 looks shaky for playoff purposes, because Tampa might still be capable of winning 10 games. However, their offense is in worse sync than ours is, they can’t keep their bread-and-butter RB healthy, and Freeman is struggling with turnovers (INTs) largely because he’s working with a receiving corps that is vastly underachieving. Meanwhile, Brees is being reminded of what bad pass protection can do to you, and the Saints do not excel at either running the ball, or stopping the run. We could still take the division, but it will take some serious hard work, and probably an 11-5 record to do it, if not better. Plus, we have to go through the Saints to do it. Why? Because early woes put us in a hole. We should be 2-0 in the NFC South, not 1-1. The loss to Tampa was absolutely inexcusable.

Up next will be a breakdown of the Falcons’ rivals for an NFC wildcard playoff spot.

Big Ray

November 1st, 2011
3:50 am

On the big playoff picture

Six teams from the NFC will make the playoffs. If you figure/assume the current division leaders (Giants, Packers, Saints, 49ers) all make it, then the next best group of records is the Lions (6-2), Falcons (4-3), Bears (4-3)and Bucs (4-3). The only team with a losing record that I’d be worried about is Philadelphia (3-4). They can make a comeback, and they’re also the team with the losing record at this point, that is most likely to do so. I think Dallas is finished already (talk about dysfunctional) and Washington has too many QB issues (among other things) to get it done.

Detroit – talented and fairly well coached, but youth, inexperience, and injuries will torpedo any team. Lions need to keep Stafford healthy, or a hot start will go up in smoke and could possibly end in a non-playoff trip season. But, the start was good enough and AGAIN..if Stafford stays healthy, these guys are in the playoffs. But both we and the 49ers have proven that not only can they be beaten at full health, but HOW they can be beaten.

Philadelphia – this might be the team to fear most. They have the speed and ability. They have playmakers on both sides of the ball. If they get hot, Vick stays healthy and unrattled, and the offensive game plan revolves around limiting the number of mistake opportunity that he has, they’ll roll the way they did against Dallas. Then again, maybe the win against Dallas was as much (if not more) about Dallas being dysfunctional as it was about the Eagles being dangerous. It’s true that the Eagles’ 4 losses came against teams that currently have winning records (including us!). So this team is legit. I’d bet on them bouncing back after winning two in a row. However, they face the Bears next, and then later the Giants (who beat them soundly, despite several injuries to key players), Patriots, and Jets (who knows which Jets team will show up). Their other games are otherwise rather winnable (Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys, Redskins, Dolphins).

Chicago – This is the other team that worries me. If Chicago realizes that Matt Forte is even more of a featured part of their offense than Turner is for us (simply because he’s a better receiver and a quicker RB), they’ll continue to win. If they keep putting the bulk of the pressure on Culter and his on-again/off-again O-line, they’re toast. Either way, their defense is no joke. Well, against the run, anyway. Chicago struggles against the pass, and on top of that, only two of their 4 wins has come against a team that currently holds a winning record (ironically, one of them was against us, the other against the struggling Bucs). Beyond that, they’ve beaten Minnesota and Carolina, two teams who are struggling to get off the cellar floor in their divisions, and not succeeding. Chicago has lost to Green Bay (so has everybody else so far), gotten run over by New Orleans, and handled by Detroit. Things don’t get better, as they’ll face a plethora of teams who can pass the ball, and might be able to play some defense of their own. Chicago next faces Philadelphia, Detroit, and San Diego, in that order. These three games will be pivotal, as the Bears will need to win at least two of them, or face a .500 or worse record, which won’t be good enough for playoffs. After that, they have two trap games against Oakland (Palmer will be warmed up by then) and Kansas City (they just shocked San Diego and are playing some tough football lately). After that comes Denver ( a gimme if Tebow’s playing), Seattle (lol), and Green Bay (another loss), while finishing out against Minnesota (should win that one). So on the one hand, I don’t like having to go up against a tough team like Chicago. On the other hand, they have just enough that isn’t going right, to where they may actually not make the playoffs this year.

Tampa Bay – how would you like to find out that one of your best and steadiest players is the kick-off/punter that you signed away for big money from a division rival? The Bucs didn’t sign Koenen to be that, they signed him to be a missing piece to special teams on a squad that was supposed to be on the fast and furious rise on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. Their running game relies heavily on Blount, but they can’t keep him healthy. He’s back for now, but his capable backup and third down specialist has been lost for the season and that has to have Tampa nervous. Freeman is a NFC South QB media darling (that is, when the media isn’t busy adhering themselves to Cam Newton’s nether regions), but he’s already thrown more INTs (10) in 7 games than he did total last season, and it’s not all his fault, though he has missed far more open WRs than anybody can accuse Matt Ryan of.

On the defensive side of things, Tampa watches as talented CB Aqib Talib flounders, and Ronde Barber, while defying his age and playing well, becomes the team MVP in most games. However, Mason Foster and Adrian Clayborn have been the epitome of hope. How has it all worked out? Despite our complaints about our own defense, we’re statistically better than they are…and we’re on the way up….

Tampa’s fate is tied to Blount and Freeman, and they are still dangerous, quite possibly moreso than Chicago. We can’t let up, they own the tie-breaker for the moment, and we need to avenge that loss in the regular season finale in the worst way (on general principle, if nothing else). But until then, winning the other game will make the biggest difference.

Trap games – most of the games we have coming up are either clearly tough ones (Houston, Tennessee, Saints x 2, Tampa) or ones we should obviously win (Indy, Minnesota) the only two trap games could be against Carolina and Jacksonville. Why?

Carolina IS going to get better. But we should be even better by then as well. Still, if they are healthy and Cam Newton has learned some valuable lessons by then, he and his offense will be harder to stop than they have been. On the flip side of the coin, their defense may or may not improve, but ours should be humming along nicely by then. It won’t be a cake walk, but we already know we can take them. If we’re focused (and healthy), it’s a win.

Now for Jacksonville – those guys took the Ravens apart with one of the absolutely most murderous defensive performances I’ve seen from ANY NFL team yet this season. I mean, it was damn ugly. They were nasty against us in the preseason, but now? They don’t always play like this, but when they decide to, it’s hard to find a tougher defense. Their front four is quick and deadly. They are capable of all kinds of pressure. If we don’t execute and play our game against them, we could allow them a chance to pull out a win. Of course, their offense stinks to high heaven, but Maurice Jones-Drew can have a big day any day, and if Gabbert is given time, he can make some plays in the passing game. Not likely, but that’s why they call it a trap game…

John Waynesworld

November 1st, 2011
5:29 am

Old White Haired Man

November 1st, 2011
7:44 am

@Big Ray. You must have been writing that all night… You should take DLed job…

Ken Strickland

November 1st, 2011
9:08 am

BIG RAY-I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, but I believe MSmith isn’t comfortable operating during a gm beyond his pregame script. I say this because the only changes I’ve seen this team make during a gm is to switch:

1-to the NO HUDDLE OFF when Mularkey’s play calling all but shuts the OFF down.
2-to the ultra conservative and predictable RUN 1ST AND OFTEN APPROACH whenever we have a halftime lead, which has allowed every team we’ve had a halftime lead on to come back on us.
3-back to the soft zone approach that’s kept us at or near the bottom of the league in pass DEF.

So far this season, every successful change or adjustment that’s been made, like running outside more, playing man to man, or playing our CBs closer to the WRs, has been done on a limited and none sustainable basis. There definitely hasn’t been any committment from Smitty, VanGorder or Mularkey to permanently switch from their traditional conservative and predictable approach.

Even though a change or adjustment has successfully worked for the team and players, we have yet to see these changes maintained for more than one half, and have yet to see them maintained from gm to gm.

JB FALCON-Are you sure you’re not speaking from personal experience, LOL?

FALCON21-Am I that obvious? I’m certainly frustrated as all get out. I just don’t have confidence in our coaching staffs willingness or ability to part with their conservative and predictable approach. They’ve so far refused to even make permanent adjustments, even if they have proven to be successful.

Otherwise, why are we still seeing so many runs up the middle on 1st downs, or us still relying so heavily on zone DEFs, or our CBs still playing 8-10yds off the WRs, or us refusing to utilize more than 3 receiving options? I’ve never seen a HC, OC and DC struggle so hard, and be so resistent, to making adjustments that will bring their outdated approach more in line with what’s going on in todays modern era of football.

This is why I feel our team has become more and more inconsistent on both OFF and DEF under Smitty and Co.

1-Smitty said CB DRobinson was signed because he wanted longer coverage from his CBs. And what does he do, insists of playing zone and having his CBs maintain an 8-10yds cushion.
2-We already had a multiple Probowl TE and WR, and we made a record setting trade up to draft WR JJones, because he wanted more big play capability. And what does Smitty do, he continues to focus on being a conservative, predictable, run 1st and often up the middle OFF.
3-He also said we needed a change of pace RB, so traded up to draft versatile and dynamic RB JRogers. And what does Smitty do, he use him so sparingly that he might as well be on IR like JNorwood was last yr.

Smitty and Co have so far been a coaching staff that’s made contradition and inconsistency their signature.

Unca' Bob

November 1st, 2011
9:16 am

Oct. 31, 2011 7:25 p.m. – by Knox Bardeen – Falcons see expanded role for RB Rodgers
Coach Mike Smith said RB Jacquizz Rodgers has proven he can play in the NFL and should see his role expanded: “We need to make sure that we spread the ball around through the second half of the season. We’ve been a little one-sided in terms of whose gotten the majority of the carries.”

OC/DC Dinosaurs

November 1st, 2011
9:57 am

HC Smith likes a team of blockers. Instead of USING what we HAVE that we HAVEN’T used, MCox is signed. And, look at the previous tight ends that were signed.

What will happen if the Colts win. It is a trap game. It is hard to see that the Colts could win but with this coaching staff anything is possible.

I laughed at a headline on AJC.com – “BIG PLAY ROOKIE BACK ON THE FIELD”. It is unconscionable that JJones has not scored a touchdown even with the two missed games.

I don’t buy it takes time for MRyan to sync with him. If Bengal’s rookie QB Andy Dalton can get 5 TD passes to rookie AJGreen, JJones should be able to score at least one TD. If Panther’s rookie QB CNewton under rookie coach RRivera can throw 11 TD passes to receivers he has never thrown to prior to this year, MRyan should be able to throw at least one TD pass to JJones, and I don’t blame MRyan.

KS you said it all in this sentence earlier.
But as soon as they feel the team has turned the corner, I see them reverting back to the things that got us in this mess in the first place.

Is this all there is with this team? Waiting for them to turn the corner to do the same thing as last year?

OC/DC Dinosaurs

November 1st, 2011
10:02 am

Unca’ Bob
From HC Smith, “We need to make sure that we spread the ball around through the second half of the season. We’ve been a little one-sided in terms of whose gotten the majority of the carries.”

I will believe it when I see it. How many times did we hear similar statements about JNorwood and his speed. I am afraid we will hear similar statements about JJones too.

Ken Strickland

November 1st, 2011
11:01 am

OC/DC-UNCA’BOB-it took HC MSmith 7gms and 3 losses to finally realize we’ve been one-sided in terms of whose gotten the majority of the carries? It’s also revealing that he feels we’re just a little one sided. He’s not willing to admit that he’s the one who’s basically relegated RBs JSnelling, JRogers and ASmith to special teams duty.

After watching hours of college gm film, seeing him in training camp and preseason gms, it took him to our bye week to figure out JRogers could play? This is something everyone else but his stupid behind already knew. He’s become the master of saying what he feels people want to hear, but doing the opposite.

I could be wrong, but I can’t remember a single thing he’s actually done that he’s publically said he intended to do. He said he was definitely going to reduce MTurner’s carries, and earlier he said he was going to make a big OL change. He makes these bold and concilatory statements, and then continues along the same path as if nothing ever happened or was ever said.

CAGERS, the PROCESS has reached its peak, because our coaching staff is stuck in the past.


November 1st, 2011
11:02 am

I think it’s possible to win all the games, if you can stay healthy with your core players. Julio Jones will be a big asset to this team before the year is out. Iv’e got to see the defense play a few more games minus mistakes and silly penalties, to see if they have turned the corner. If Mike Mularky can’t get Julio Jones, Snelling and Rodgers involved in the offense then there’s something wrong.

Paddy O

November 1st, 2011
11:07 am

looks like more of rookies are progressing through their apprenticeship.

Paddy O

November 1st, 2011
11:11 am

KS is correct. Mike Smith tells you what he thinks you want to hear. His preferred play calling is what we saw last year. It produced 13-3, so why change? However, once we were sub 500, and throwing away games in the 2nd half, change was ordered from somewhere above HC MS. We shall see how we do. I would be pretty disappointed if we did NOT hold Indy to below 10 points, and score close to 40 ourselves. That would indicate true team progress.

Paddy O

November 1st, 2011
11:13 am

Another benefit to playing indy, Caldwell is not a high caliber coach – unless he is intentionally throwing the season. No way 1 guy goes down and you get smoked for 62 points. We shall see how long Caldwell & Polian stay in Indy.