CHICAGO — Hey, anybody else realize the Falcons open the season today?
It has been a strange offseason, what with the NFL lockout, postponed free agency, and relatively limited practice time. The Falcons have been somewhat lost on the Atlanta sports landscape, particularly with college football starting last week.
But today, we begin to find out what this team is: a Super Bowl contender (as it seemed to show during a 13-3 regular season last year), or a team that’s not quite at that elite level yet (as it showed in the lopsided home playoff loss to Green Bay last January).
All we heard from general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith following the loss to the Packers was how this team needed more explosiveness, and they seem to have added that on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Julio Jones is a game-breaker. If he doesn’t steer some of the defensive attention away from Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game, that means he is being left one-on-one. That would be fine with quarterback Matt Ryan, as he, Smith and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey spent much of training camp and exhibitions trying to quickly implement Jones into the offense.
Edwards also should have an impact. The Falcons were shredded by Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. The fact the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl and made New Orleans’ defense look silly Thursday night might soften the blow a bit. But the fact remains that the
team needed to improve its pass rush.
Edwards is not a sack machine. But he is a terrific all-round end who should fit well into the Falcons’ scheme and take some of the onus off of John Abraham. The Bears finished 30th in the NFL in offense last season but should be improved in the second season under coordinator Mike Martz.
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler can be a knucklehead, but he’s a talented knucklehead. If the Falcons don’t get pressure on him and let him get into a rhythm, they the Bears will move the ball.
One final thing: The weather is absolutely gorgeous — about 70 degrees and sunny with a breeze. If this game was being held in December during a typically miserable Chicago winter, it would play more to the defense. So the Falcons, with more offensive weapons, should have an advantage.
That’s it for now. What are your thoughts on the Falcons today and this season. If you missed it, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King has tabbed them as Super Bowl champions. Falcons owner Arthur Blank wouldn’t have a problem with that.
By Jeff Schultz