OK, this Falcons’ mania, over which we’ve remarked at length, is officially off the hook. The Sporting News Pro Football yearbook, which last season picked the Birds to go 1-15, rates them somewhat more highly this time.
It picks them to go 11-5, to win the NFC South by two full games and — wait for it — to win two playoff games and play the New York Giants for the NFC title.
(Thankfully, the magazine does not pick the Falcons to win the NFC title.)
I’d link to all of this gushing, but no such link exits. (Preseason magazines don’t usually appear online, for a basic reason: If they did, nobody would pay $7.99 plus tax — as I just did — to read one.) But I have offered visual proof above, and I will take the liberty of quoting from SNPF 2009.
And let me just note that, once again, the overall forecast doesn’t appear to have been offered by the same person who wrote the Falcons’ profile. Last year’s team outlook was the work of esteemed colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter, who was as surprised as anyone over the 1-15 projection. This year Falcons’ capsules were done by Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, who writers:
“These Falcons appear to be built for the long haul. But if they can’t make a swift transition on the defensive side of the ball [Editor's note: Why not simply "on defense"?], the Falcons could lose the momentum gained last year and go from being the league’s biggest surprise to its biggest disappointment …
“Expectations for this franchise are high again — maybe too high. The defense remains in rebuilding mode and the offense is still young at the most crucial spot on the field. The special teams are strong, though. If the defense can get better and the offense can avoid a precipitous drop in production, the Falcons should stay in the hunt for a division title to the end. This doesn’t look like a team that’s ready to make a long run in the playoffs, but a second straight postseason is possible.”
OK, so now you’re asking: Does SNPF 2009 really like the Falcons or not? Yes and no, I guess. But I’ll leave you with the magazine’s obligatory View From An Unnamed Opponent:
“You have to start with Matt Ryan, who was just lights-out last year. He’s an outstanding player, and he obviously has a great command of the game and great knowledge and awareness of what’s going on around him. They’re real solid there and should be for a while.
“They have a very strong running game, too, with [Michael] Turner, and with [Jerious] Norwood they’ve got that changeup kind of back there as well. They also have one of the best fullbacks in the league [in Ovie Mughelli]. You talk about one-on-one blocking and moving people; he’s really good at it.
“On defense, the pass rush needs a little bit of a kick-start. Everybody’s getting on Jamaal Anderson, but he’s still playing pretty well. I’m not ready to sign off on him just yet. If he can get better or if they can add another guy to help out John Abraham, they should be OK there.
“Chauncey Davis could be that guy, but I see him more as a rotational guy. If they get that pass rush going, they should be all right. But they’ve made a lot of changes at linebacker and in the secondary, so you have to see how that’s going to work out.”
(Coming attraction: The next Bradley post, set to arrive at 10:40 a.m., will be the Monday Bradley’s Buzz. Topics include Frenchy in NY, the Thrashers and … Jim Harrick?)