Bradley’s Buzz: Everybody (well, almost) loves the Falcons

The extremely handsome Matt Ryan has many admirers. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The extremely handsome Matt Ryan has many admirers. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

So I watched the Falcons through their uninspiring preseason and was starting to think, “Maybe I overclubbed.” (I’d picked them to go 10-6 and win the NFC South.) But now I find I’m only one among many gushing pundits. To wit:

Pete Prisco of CBSsports.com ranks the Falcons the NFL’s seventh-best team and the third-best (behind the Giants and the Eagles) in the NFC. Writes Prisco: “They will be in a lot of shootouts in 2009. The offense will be better, but there are issues with the defense, especially the secondary.”

ESPN.com has them eighth in the league and also third in the NFC. Writes Mike Sando: “A year of seasoning for Matt Ryan should put the Falcons in better position. Coach Mike Smith’s even keel also seems helpful.”

• The idiosyncratic Gregg Easterbrook, who writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback for ESPN.com, goes all haiku with his predictions. He has the Falcons finishing 10-6 — second in their division behind the Saints — and offers this versified preview:

Lost Vick, got better.
Food for thought, Philly Eagles.
Atlanta Falcons.

Clifton Brown of Sporting News lists the Falcons only 14th in his power poll, but the magazine itself has them going to the NFC title game (and losing to the Giants). And SN’s Vinnie Iyer mentions three Falcons among his breakout performers: Ryan, guard Harvey Dahl and punter Michael Koenen.

• On FoxSports.com, the Sports Xchange sounds an uncommon dissenting note, picking the Falcons to go 7-9 and miss the playoffs.

• Writing for ESPN’s Insiders, Rob Weintraub of Football Outsiders has Jerious Norwood “trending up” and Ryan “trending down.” (Link requires registration.) Writes Weintraub:

“After putting forth the finest rookie season by a signal-caller since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, odds are he won’t become Dan Marino circa 1984, either. Our projections see Ryan tossing a couple more touchdown passes, but his completion percentage and net yards per attempt are both likely to fall off.”

• Finally, Peter King of SI.com, who had already picked the Falcons to finish 10-6 and win their division, amplifies a bit: “I trust [Thomas] Dimitroff and Smith will figure out how to fix a bad defense. The Falcons were a nice Cinderella story last year, fueled by the precocious Ryan. But an offense that exploded [259 points in 2007, 391 in 2008] hid the league’s 24th-rated unit, and in the offseason, Dimitroff did major surgery.”

Most of the above writers, in my view, sound the proper notes. The one thing with which I’d disagree is Weintraub’s elevation of Norwood. I’ve been waiting for Norwood to have a big season since I was a wee lad, and now I’m on Social Security (or thereabouts). That’s one I’ll have to see to believe, and I mightn’t believe it then. (When you get my age, your eyes go, too.)

103 comments Add your comment

Ostrich Racer

September 9th, 2009
4:22 am

Gonzalez seals it –
Dimitrov is a genius.
Twelve and four this year.

nes

September 9th, 2009
4:59 am

How can Ryan’s completion percentage go down after getting the best TE in the world Rob Weintraub?

Greg

September 9th, 2009
6:00 am

Jerious sure didn’t “trend up” in the pre-season. Snelling was far the more impressive back, running with power and tenacity, with lots of YAC’s. Jerious certainly has his talents, and he may have put on “8 pounds of muscle” in the off-season, as has been reported, but he still goes down if someone even brushes one of those match-stick legs, and he still dances too much before hitting holes.

The Grinch

September 9th, 2009
6:44 am

Remember, y’all; Brian Williams and Tye Hill probably won’t be able to contribute much until after the bye (we’ll be 2-2 at that point, I imagine). The sked is brutal, loaded with teams that can scorch our secondary. If the offense is as good as advertised (and I feel pretty sure it will be) we can probably go 9-7, which would be a step forward all things considered.

In the NFC south, I see us sweeping Tampa and splitting with Carolina. The Saints are what really bother me; Drew Brees with all day to throw will eat us alive and Gregg Williams has middle of the pack or better defense wherever he goes. His signing is underrated. I hope I’m wrong, because I despise that team.

Agreed with Greg on Norwood; he’d be useful occasionally out of the slot or on a screen, but he goes down easier than Jenna Jameson. I don’t know why they don’t use Snelling more.

Lets hope by midseason the defense gells and we can prove most of the pundits right.

And Mark, if Bobby Cox is the best you’ve ever seen; the only others you must have paid attention to were Mike Hargrove and Walter Matthau.

The Real Falcon

September 9th, 2009
6:58 am

Let’s see Norwood was hurt and now supposed Falcons fans are all over him? With Porn jokes no less. Some people just need to stay in bed.

10-6 is Entirely Doable

September 9th, 2009
7:04 am

Question is, will that be enough to win the NFC South?

Gotta agree with y’all and the Norwood “trend up”, I just don’t see it happening. They’re not going to take too many carries out of Turner’s hands and Norwood (1) doesn’t like to run between the tackles and (2) takes one hit and falls. Sure he’s blazing in open space, but he rarely ever gets into it.

This Matt Ryan trending down statement is ridiculous. Completion percentage isn’t going to fall off (net yards per attempt might, but that’s as much a matter of defensive reads and checks than anything else). Everyone else sees a tall QB with a good arm who could check down to a 4th receiver as a rookie. What do you think he’s going to do with another year in the system and a lot more video? The biggest key is that he’s smart and dedicated. Does football outsiders have a stat for that?

Philo Beddo

September 9th, 2009
7:05 am

Idiosyncratic??? Man, MB, you made me break out my dictionary early this morning….nice job!

hahahahahaha...

September 9th, 2009
7:09 am

…(I sound like that Saint Simons on the Bulldawg blog) – these are the ATLANTA FALCONS all these guys are talking UP! If we can go 9-7 we will have overachieved with the schedule we have. We could very easily start 0-4, especially with the defensive secondary that is offensive to all PROFESSIONAL footbal defensive players in the league – the 31 other offensive coordinators and their QB’s and receivers HOPE they get to third down and long since we have no pass rush AND the secondary cannot even keep up with their own shadows! ANd we want to break the 46 year kinx of never having consecutive winning seasons – sorry, probably not this year!

The Grinch

September 9th, 2009
7:12 am

Norwood’s been hurt since the moment he left Miss. State? When has he ever even broken an arm tackle? If he hits an enormous hole (not a porn reference) or turns the corner he’s awesome, but when does that happen more than once or twice a game? He’s a gimmick back like Reggie Bush.

I love the Falcons almost as much as the Dawgs and I have every bit of confidence in TD to make this an awesome team. I’m just saying defenses (like Rome) weren’t built in a day. A great deal of it’s up to Moore and Williams.

SatchelBuzz

September 9th, 2009
7:26 am

They better get the defense fixed,…or we are definately looking at a bunch of shootouts. Hope we can hold on,..but those wholesale changes on the defensive side of the ball aren’t looking to sharp right about now. We’ll see.

FALCONS SORRY

September 9th, 2009
7:40 am

MATTY HOPELESS! ALL THESE TREE HUGGERS WANT TO LOVE ALL OVER YOU BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU SO PRETTY AND CLEAN AND SMART AND SHINNY! ALL THEM PRETTY BOY FEATURES YOU GOT ARE NOT GOING TO HELP YOU GET TO MIAMI IN JANUARY SISSY BOY! YOU NEED SKILL AND TALENT AND SPEED AND STRENTH TO GET THE JOB DONE! THAT NO COUNT AUTHUR BLANK WANTED SOME PRETTY LITTLE POSTER BOY TO SELL TICKETS TO ALL THE RICH HOUSE WIFES THAT LIVE UP IN NORTH FULTON AND PEACH TREE CITY! AND HE THROWED AWAY THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE JUST TO HAVE SOME IMAGE THAT HE THINK PEOPLE HERE IN ATL WANT! # 7 SOLD TICKETS AND HAD PEOPLE WAITING IN LINE FOR YEARS JUST TO HAVE A CHANCE TO BUY TICKETS! PEOPLE THAT DIDNT EVEN LIKE FOOTBALL WOULD COME TO SEE THE MAN! HEY BLANK! WHERE IS YOUR SEASON TICKET WAITING LIST NOW HATER! WITH MATTY HOPELESS TRYING TO LEAD THIS TEAM THE ONLY WAY THE FALCONS WILL WIN THE NFC SOUTH TITLE IS IF THEY KID NAP IT AT GUN POINT! IT SOUND LIKE FOX SPORTS.COM WAS THE ONLY PREDICTER THAT GOT THINGS HALF RIGHT BECAUSE THEY CAN SEE RIGHT THREW THE WEAK ARMED GIRL SCOUT THE FALCONS ARE TRYING TO SWINDLE IN TO THINKING IS THEIR FRANCHISE QB! DONT DRINK THE MATTY HOPELESS KOOLADE PEOPLE! IF PETER KING DONT STOP MAKING SILLY PICKS LIKE THAT HE WILL GET BUSTED DOWN TO MCDONALDS OR THE AJC! I DONT KNOW WHICH IS WORSE! TONY GONZOLEEZ! YOU NEED TO EAT A BIG OLD CHEESE BURGER AND PUT SOME MEAT ON YOUR BONES IF YOU WANT TO LIVE TO SEE THE PRO BOWL THIS YEAR! IF YOU WANT TO GET INTO TO THE PLAY OFFS THIS YEAR YOU BETTER SAVE YOUR MONEY AND BUY A TICKET TO WATCH THEM IN SOME OTHER CITY BLANK!

MightyQuinn

September 9th, 2009
7:44 am

Was Ryan pulling for Oklahoma State? Is that why he is imitating Pistol Pete in the picture?

rhynster

September 9th, 2009
7:50 am

Matt Ryan will be fine.

But I am worried about Turner and The Curse of 370. I think that’s a legitimate “curse”.

I also don’t like that the defense has not improved with Dimitroff’s moves.

Ostrich Racer

September 9th, 2009
7:53 am

PROGRAMMING NOTE: “FALCONS SORRY” is an imposter who’s trying to stir up trouble. Please do not tap on his cage.

MightyQuinn

September 9th, 2009
8:07 am

No problem, Ostrich, no one pays any serious attention to him anymore anyway. He’s relagated to the same status as the crazy uncle who always shows up for thanksgiving dinner in his underwear. The shock value is gone.

LeGarrette

September 9th, 2009
8:08 am

Ostrich Racer –> Ostrich RACIST

(AND also a Carolina Panthers fan!)

Heeeeeeees Baaaaaaaacccckkkk...

September 9th, 2009
8:09 am

…FALCONS SORRY!!!!!

Alan

September 9th, 2009
8:10 am

Falcons Soorry must have a man crush on Matty Ice seeing as how he can’t quit talking about him. GO FALCONS !!!!!

newspaper writer

September 9th, 2009
8:13 am

Wow Jeff,I wish I had your job, using 7 other quotes to write a column must mean you only worked 30 minutes or less today!!!!

True Fan

September 9th, 2009
8:26 am

PEOPLE GOING TO THE DOME, LISTEN UP!

No more of this walking in at 1:15 stuff. They’ve built a better product, now we need to build a better fan base. Be in your seats at 12:45 for role call!

Make Atlanta a town that’s hard to play in for opposing teams!

leland

September 9th, 2009
8:31 am

Nice blog, Falcons Sorry. Don’t forget: vengeance will be serve.

Mark Bradley

September 9th, 2009
8:43 am

You just won’t let that go, will you, Leland?

Whopper Dawg

September 9th, 2009
8:46 am

Offense should be as good or better as the pundits suggest. However, defense will be worse, and I am afraid much worse. Won’t dip to 7 – 9, but an 8 -8 season is possible which would take down the goal of back to back winning seasons, however I am in at 9 -7. Schedule is a killer.

Mac

September 9th, 2009
8:55 am

You messed up leland, you spelled vengeance correctly.

Norwood should be better, busting some big plays. Of course, I thought the same about Byron Hanspard back in the day.

mountain_jim

September 9th, 2009
8:57 am

The season is almost here! 9 months of waiting almost over!

GO FALCONS! (9-7 to 10-6 seems right to this hopeful fan)

Mac

September 9th, 2009
9:01 am

Schultz said Falcons Sorry was banned. Guess that was just on his blog?

Nativebird

September 9th, 2009
9:15 am

D-line (with Anderson sitting) and LB’s will be fine. P.Jerry is and will show he’s a beast. DB’s are indeed a legit problem, Houston MUST step up or we are toast. TD simply must rethink his “camo” double secret strategy of scouting the likes of San Jose State and Furman. Yes athleticism in these “higgen gems” of college is there…but IT’S FURMAN!

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 9th, 2009
9:19 am

Having watched the Falcons since 1966, it’s always cause for concern when the whole world starts predicting good things for them. We’ve been down this road a time or two.

I noticed the time on the byline is 3:57 AM. Mark, you really shouldn’t let this kind of stuff keep you up at night. You didn’t make a late night stop at the Krystal did you?

midnite

September 9th, 2009
9:28 am

I will be there Sunday as always. A win Sunday will be a huge boost and get some momentum going in our direction. The D looked really suspect last year at this time. Not gonna fret and not gonna worry. In TD, Ryan, and Smitty we trust.

Mark Bradley

September 9th, 2009
9:31 am

Did not go to Krystal, Hillbilly. Thanks for caring, though.

Bobby's U-haul

September 9th, 2009
9:32 am

Time to pack up boys. Let’s head to Bartow county.

hawesg

September 9th, 2009
9:40 am

Lotta love for Snelling. I gotta say, it seems to be entirely justified. Norwood makes the most sense used like Reggie Bush, but with Gonzales, why would you need that type of player?

Glitchy

September 9th, 2009
9:52 am

Burner is on fire
Ryan’s quaterback rating tops
Falcons in Big Game

Mark Bradley

September 9th, 2009
10:02 am

Haiku to you, Glitchy. Also to Ostrich.

Bullish-on-the-Falcons

September 9th, 2009
10:07 am

Great point earlier. If you’re going to the game, show up on time. Know your role as a fan and be there when they come out of the tunnel.

Real Falcons Fan

September 9th, 2009
10:08 am

The offense will be exciting to watch, but the defense? I don’t entirely blame the secondary, the line has to put pressure on the QB. When a QB has time to do all his reads, then someone is going to get free. I think that the combo of Abraham and Sidbury will be the most effective, those two can get to the QB, and Sidbury will only get better. Stick JA in the middle, let Jerry learn how to shed the blocks better, and we might have a potent pass rush by mid-season.

Southside Falcon

September 9th, 2009
10:30 am

Every body relax about the Defense, please. 8-8 is unacceptable look at the schedule we arent the only ones that play those team the WHOLE division plays the NFC east and the AFC east. The defense will struggle early but get back on track by mid season mark my words. To you fair wether fans go away please, we need REAL fans in Atlanta not those who support the team when it hot to….I HATE YALL

Greg from Marietta

September 9th, 2009
11:05 am

All of the accolades are well and good but words don’t win football games. I have been a Falcons fan since their inception and have lived through the roller coaster ride of a few ups and a lot of downs and I too have optimism for this season. But I temper my optimism with a little reality in that I don’t care if they win the NFC title nor even their division, all I want from them is to have 9 wins or better. There is time to win it all in a year or two but you have to walk before you can run and that first step begins when you have become a consistent winner, something the Falcons have never done. Let’s just hope for a winning season and build on that.

Chef montuer

September 9th, 2009
11:10 am

Go Saints. 12-4

Bob Horner

September 9th, 2009
11:30 am

Falcons Sorry: Matt Ryan — wouldja?

The Grinch

September 9th, 2009
11:39 am

Offense lights up score

board. Special teams are not bad.

Secondary toast.

Real Falcons Fan

September 9th, 2009
11:41 am

I agree with Greg, it’s hard not to be a little tempered. If you have been a long term fan, and have stuck it out, you know you have to be. I really feel that we have a gem of a QB with Matt Ryan, and the supporting cast looks great also. Smith and TD look like no other coach/GM combo we have ever had, so I think the future looks bright. I never want to go back the days of being out numbered by the opposing teams fans in the Dome.. Of being heckled by their fans and people at work for supporting the Falcons. When the Falcons beat the 49ers in 98, to go to the NFC title game, I remember all the new jersey’s in the Dome. The fair weather fans came out of the woodwork.. They hadn’t gone through some of the heartache us faithful fans went through.. So, we are a little tempered, but hopeful. Whether they have a good or bad season, I will still always be a Falcons fan..

James Brown

September 9th, 2009
11:42 am

Michael Vick will when the super bowl for the Eagles! Enough said!

Matt H

September 9th, 2009
11:49 am

I am just truly disappointed that any sports writer would doubt himself based on a team’s preseason performance. I didn’t think the Lions were going to win the Super Bowl last year after they went 4-0 in the preseason!! I think the Falcons will be 10-6 winning the NFC south by one game over the Saints.

Wildgator

September 9th, 2009
12:04 pm

Not to rain on the Falcons parade, but doesn’t all thos praise sold like the year after they won the NFC South and went to the NFC Championship game…

darrell starks

September 9th, 2009
12:04 pm

Defense of backs are horrible you can not starte the season with decoud, houston, and grimes must make changes falcons 7 and 9 at best.
GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!

evil man

September 9th, 2009
12:08 pm

Hey Falcons Sorry, IT’S A RACE THANG! WHY DEY HODIN US DOWN MAN!

Keep It Real

September 9th, 2009
12:09 pm

I’m a Falcons Fan until the end, but right is right and wrong is wrong. It’s typical of a Falcons fan to throw a player under the bus if he is not doing so well. Norwood isn’t a power back and the Falcons have failed to see that. Norwood needs to have at least one blocker in front of him. If he gets to the line of scrimmage untouch is good for at least 8-10 yards or more.

During the past 2 years we have beefed up our o-line and gotten a entire new coaching staff, so to compare Ryan to Vick isn’t the same. Weapons like Gonzalez, Turner, White, Norwood and QB could step in and have the same success Ryan has…

evil man

September 9th, 2009
12:11 pm

James Brown. Learn how to spell Dude!!

Bubba

September 9th, 2009
12:19 pm

I don’t see Carolina being as worrisome as others do. Take away Steve Smith, and Delhomme is mediocre. Julius Peppers is good, but can’t carry a defense. J. Abraham’s gotta be thinking the same thing about his back yard, but takes comfort in the fact that our office is in far less turmoil than the Panthers.

Thing about NO is that it’s a rivalry game. Not as big as the Bears/Packers/Vikings, or Dallas/Washington, but big enough that conventional wisdom can’t really apply. I think the two shootouts will come to special teams. Edge: Falcons. I say Falcons/Saints will be the only split in the South. Falcons win the rest.