The 2010 Falcons: They’ll win 12 and play for the NFC title

Dunta Robinson: You wanted a cornerback, and they got a cornerback. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Dunta Robinson: You wanted a cornerback, and here he is. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

For football, June is the silly season. Nothing much is happening, but everybody has an idea what will happen. Here’s where I add to the silliness. Here’s where I tell you why the Falcons will play for the NFC title on Jan. 23, 2011.

1. The NFC South is the league’s most fluid division. Not once in eight tries has it yielded consecutive division winners, not even when the reigning NFC South champ was also the Super Bowl winner. (Tampa Bay went from lifting the Lombardi Trophy in February 2003 to finishing 7-9 ten months later.) This is noteworthy because the New Orleans Saints, as we know, somehow won Super Bowl XLIV.

2. The Saints are vulnerable. They’ve had the usual post-Super round of controversy and then some. A lawsuit (since withdrawn and sent to arbitration) by the team’s former security director accusing Saints staffers of misusing Vicodin. Tight end Jeremy Shockey fainting in the weight room. Safety Darren Sharper getting into a Twitter fight with a former Minnesota teammate. Tackle Jammal Brown and running back Pierre Thomas wanting more money. The Saints weren’t that much better than the Falcons a year ago, and this time they won’t be as good.

3. The defensive upgrade begun in the offseason of 2009 will grow teeth in 2010. The Falcons changed five starters from 2008 to last season, but they didn’t get immediately better at every position. Some of that had to do with injury, and tackle Peria Jerry’s return to health stands to give the D-line a boost. The same should happen in the secondary with the advent of cornerback Dunta Robinson and at linebacker with the addition of Sean Weatherspoon. The Falcons actually nosed upward defensively in 2009 — they finished 21st in total defense, up from 24th in 2008. They should be close to the top 10 this season.

How will the 2010 Falcons fare?

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4. If 2009 was as bad as it gets for Matt Ryan, the Falcons will be just fine. The quarterback wasn’t awful last season; he just wasn’t quite as precise as he’d been as a rookie. Yes, there were mitigating factors: Michael Turner got hurt and Jerious Norwood stayed hurt and the line didn’t block as well for the run as it had in 2008. But the Falcons’ whole offensive approach seemed a tad off last season. Too many short passes — that’s what happens when you add Tony Gonzalez — and not enough field-stretching. That figures to change in 2010. The Falcons have had a long time to scout themselves and see where they went wrong, and slot receiver Harry Douglas is due to return from knee surgery.

5. That never-consecutive-winning-seasons thing has finally gone away. Even Falcons insiders were of two minds about the much-discussed mark of ignominy: Some didn’t think it was a big deal, and some thought it was the biggest deal going. But now it’s gone, and the Falcons deserve great credit for taking a season going wrong and wringing a 9-7 record out of it. They know now that these coaches are clever enough to have a Plan B — as opposed to Jim Mora and Co. — and that there’s enough talent and resolve on this roster to persevere in the face of injuries and distractions. No, 2009 wasn’t a championship season, but it could well have been the season that prefigures a championship.

Prediction time: The Falcons will go 12-4, will beat Green Bay in the conference semifinals and will play Dallas in Dallas for the NFC title and the right to play in Super Bowl XLV, which is also in … er, Dallas. And how, you’re asking, will the Falcons fare against the Cowboys?

And I say: Let me hold onto a shred of mystery, please. It’s June. I see no reason to offer a prediction on the outcome of the 2011 NFC championship game until at least the Fourth of July.

393 comments Add your comment

Richard

June 18th, 2010
9:59 am

Saints are vulnerable?

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

June 18th, 2010
10:02 am

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

June 18th, 2010
10:02 am

so close maybe the falcons will be a little quicker than i was

Jacobs

June 18th, 2010
10:04 am

If the defense holds up… the dirty birds WILL be in the big game!!!

ormewood

June 18th, 2010
10:09 am

Beware the Packers. They will be stout this season.

PMC

June 18th, 2010
10:09 am

I’m all in this year for the Braves and Falcons. I generally never let myself get hopes up too high. I think both of these teams can win championships. There are a lot of if’s and buts (pass rush, kicking etc) but they have enough good players now across the board where they can make stuff happen and survive some negatives.

They have not been better at this point in the year at any time in thier franchise to my knowledge anyway… maybe 1980 I guess but I doubt it.

Mark Bradley

June 18th, 2010
10:13 am

Close, South GA.

PMC

June 18th, 2010
10:13 am

The biggest obstacle is obviously that Drew Brees is playing as well as any QB in the NFL…. even if the rest of the Saints are an absolute grease fire from the coaches drug use on down to Reggie Bush’s private life to the superbowl hangover…. that guy is capable of engineering wins for them.

Drew Brees is freaking awesome. In order to beat them the Falcons HAVE to get to the QB and they HAVE to cover the break off routes with thier linebackers. If Thomas Decoup is the only guy capable of getting to Brees… we will have problems again.

PMC

June 18th, 2010
10:14 am

Love the Falcons talk in June MB.

Mark Bradley

June 18th, 2010
10:15 am

Pass rush does have to improve, PMC. I think it will.

Mike Smith

June 18th, 2010
10:16 am

Mark,

It’s never to soon to talk about football and predictions. I eat, live, and breathe football. I like the prediction of 12-4 but I think 13-3 looks a hell of a lot better! The schedule this year isn’t terrible and what makes that better is that Big Ben wont be suiting up in Pitt. This gives us a slight chance to go up there and beat the snot out of those Steelers! I also like our defensive upgrades, and if health was the issue last year it should be much better this year. You can’t never tell though until you make it through training camp unscaved. Our offense and defense should fare much better in 2010. I think our special teams may be a question mark especially with the lack of a fluid kicker. I can’t wait unti football season starts .. it is absolutely my favorite time of year!

Navigator

June 18th, 2010
10:16 am

I’m one of those that thought it was a big deal for the franchise not any one player. You covered a lot of what happened last year, with no running back, and their deep threat (Douglas) out for the season, and a second year QB trying to replace all of that. If the Falcons are healthy and everyone returns to form, and with the additions, they should win 12 games, but that has no bearing on who goes to the Championship. Look what happened to the Jets after the Falcons beat them, they almost went to the Superbowl. It’s all about the injuries and when the team gets on a roll.

Tokyo Tom

June 18th, 2010
10:17 am

12 wins might be a little aggressive- I think the record will be closer to 10 wins which should still win the division. I can also see 1+ wins in the postseason.

I remember many Junes in the past when we were talking about 10-12 losses for the upcoming season!

PMC

June 18th, 2010
10:18 am

The real message of last year is not just that they got the monkey off the back with the concecutive winning seasons deal. The real victory was that the team with little to play for went up and beat the Jets and then closed the season out with wins. They struggled with setbacks all year and still posted a positive at the end of it. Every year is not going to be your year. These well paid professionals who could have just packed it in with nothing to play for went out and gave all they had the last month to post a winning record. That is something we’ve never had here and that is why this team is different.

Mark Bradley

June 18th, 2010
10:20 am

Thanks, Mike Smith. I enjoy the offseason almost as much as the season itself, if that makes any sense.

DP

June 18th, 2010
10:20 am

The Saints were only a little better than the Falcons last year? That’s revisionist history. Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the Saints 12-1 and the Falcons 6-7 after 13 games?

Navigator

June 18th, 2010
10:21 am

By the way remember the most hated QB Matt Schaub, well he led the NFL in passing, and Houston to their first winning season. People that come on here with negative about QB’s (no matter who they are) have no credibility as knowledgeable fans, they’re just miserable little people that have to add misery to someone else.

Fly'in High

June 18th, 2010
10:23 am

The birds gave the Saints all they could handle in both games last year. If Atlanta had been 100% healthy,they probably would have won both and played the Saints a 3rd time in the playoffs.

NB

June 18th, 2010
10:29 am

Who’s impact is greater for this town….Matt Ryan or Jason Heyward??

ormewood

June 18th, 2010
10:30 am

Fly’in High, so did Tampa Bay. it’s about what you do on other games. it’s easy to get up for a rival like the Saints. I think the schedule is manageable, but there are some potholes out there: Baltimore, Cincy, Green Bay. I think San Fran will be improved, Philly.

Ted M

June 18th, 2010
10:31 am

That stupid annoying buzz is still there. I thought they were getting rid of it.

Don’t you think the total lack of a cheering crowd (as its drowned out by the buzz) makes these world cup games less exciting?

Herschel Talker

June 18th, 2010
10:35 am

I’m as bullish as anyone on these guys, but now we have the dreaded Bradley jinx to contend with. What a disaster.

ernisTbass

June 18th, 2010
10:39 am

Don’t forget that Minn outplayed the Saints hands down, I know the Saints won and hats off to them, but they are vulnerable and will see every teams best effort this season

Marcus

June 18th, 2010
10:40 am

Prediction for 2010-2001: Braves go down swinging as surprise in NL Penant; Falcons ride the D and timely/explosive offense to surprise everyone being the NFC rep in Super Bowl XLV; Hawks under rookie coach Larry Drew scrap to get to the Eastern Conf. Finals vs. ORL …. and ESPN finally erects the ESPN- ATL sister website to ESPN Dallas, NYC, LA and BOS.

Brent

June 18th, 2010
10:43 am

Thanks for the football fix MB, I tend to agree with everything. Hope you are right.

Benjamin

June 18th, 2010
10:45 am

Your poll has holes, sir! (What, they can’t be a wild card team? :) )

I think we’re probably going to be a 10-6 squad this year and get back into the playoffs. I don’t think we’re on par with the Saints as of yet; their offense is too explosive, in my opinion. But we’re a very good football team, and I’ll take that any day.

TMoney

June 18th, 2010
10:54 am

As of right now, the Falcons look very good. On paper. However, being an Atlanta sports fan, I know that how a team looks on paper is worth absolutely nothing, especially this far before the season.

However, if we’re making predictions, here’s mine. Falcons finish 13-3 with losses @ New Orleans, @ Philadelphia, and @ Carolina. They finish 2 games ahead of New Orleans and tied with Minnesota for best record in the NFC.

FalconFan

June 18th, 2010
10:55 am

Well, First, I love it when someone puts FIRST and doesn’t get it. I like that the first post was something other than First. Also, I do think the Falcons are between a 9-7 and 13-3 team. All depends on how everything works out and injuries. With 2 or 3 major injuries that could fall below 9-7. 13-3 will only happen if everyone is playing to the level they are supposed to, everyone stays healthy and we get a few breaks. So I think the prediction of 12 wins is very do-able!

SirReal

June 18th, 2010
10:58 am

Mark, I dont think you’re too far off in your assessment sir. I think 10-11 Ws is more realistic for this team. I can only hope we get toward the top ten in D. We need more 3 and outs. I definitely think we beat N.O. at home this year…too much voodoo in their dome.lol And you’re right, June is the silly season. :)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and Dawson Devitt, 2011SuperBowl.com. 2011SuperBowl.com said: #SB45 > The 2010 Falcons: They’ll win 12 and play for the NFC … – Atlanta Journal Constitution … http://bit.ly/dxJbGT http://www.bit.ly/45thSB [...]

Rich

June 18th, 2010
11:02 am

I’ve already said it many times: the Falcons will bring the Lombardi trophy to Atlanta by the end of the 2011 season.

thunderbull56

June 18th, 2010
11:03 am

To accomplish those lofty goals we must be more tenacious predators out on the road.

steve brown

June 18th, 2010
11:05 am

Atlanta’s sports woes
Owner puts Hawks, Thrashers & arena up for sale

By JOSH KOSMAN

Last Updated: 5:44 AM, June 18, 2010

Posted: 12:49 AM, June 18, 2010
Comments: 0
| More Print [Follow Us on Twitter]

Today the National Basketball Association has a 2009-10 champion, but for the Atlanta Hawks the real battle has just begun.

The Atlanta Spirit, the group that controls the team, has put it on the block and, in recent days has started to solicit buyers for the franchise in a package with the Philips Arena where the team plays, according to sources with direct knowledge of the process.

The Spirit is also selling its Atlanta Thrashers franchise of the National Hockey League.

The Hawks posted an operating loss of roughly $20 million last year before servicing debt. The Philips Arena made $10 million.
NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the NHL’s Thrashers and the Philips Arena are for sale.
AP
NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the NHL’s Thrashers and the Philips Arena are for sale.

That means the package together is losing money, and if one bought the Hawks and tried to move them out of Atlanta it would trip a clause in the financing deal that would accelerate the remaining debt payments owed on the 11-year-old arena.

So a buyer would likely need to keep them in town, sources said.

As for the Thrashers they are being sold separately and lost about $30 million in the last 12 month, according to figures compiled by the Spirit, the source said.

The owners have hired the Raine Group, a New York investment bank, to sell the teams, which both just completed winning seasons.

This dilemma is part of a deeper problem the NBA faces in that its teams posted an overall loss of $400 million, according to Commissioner David Stern.

At the same time, many of the team owners who were very rich have lost money in the recession and cannot afford to keep funding money-losing teams.

Owners too have a quickly depleting number of wealthy financiers to whom they can sell their teams.

For example, the money-losing New Jersey Nets searched 18 months for a buyer until they got lucky and found billionaire Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, the source said.

Another source in the sports business said, “There will be more foreclosures. In five years you’ll have a lot fewer teams and buildings will go dark.”

In other industries you would see mergers and cost cuts, but in sports salaries are fixed, the other source added.

The Atlanta Spirit could not be reached for comment.

In 2004, the group paid $250 million to buy the basketball and hockey teams, along with Phillips Arena, from Time Warner.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/atlanta_sports_woes_nFWtCfbmsxk5uXjNim4q1O#ixzz0rDTXjHYz

BUBBA GUMP

June 18th, 2010
11:10 am

Mark…………………….Stay away from predictions………….I never got over YOUR prediction of the BRAVES clinching the World Series over the YANKEES after we went up 2-0

Give up the predictions………………….leave it to the Las Vegas bookies! LOL

[...] The 2010 Falcons: They’ll win 12 and play for the NFC title Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) This is noteworthy because the New Orleans Saints, as we know, somehow won Super Bowl XLIV. 2. The Saints are vulnerable. They’ve had the usual post-Super … http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2010/06/18/the-2010-falcons-theyll-win-12-and-play-for-the-nf... [...]

ROB

June 18th, 2010
11:21 am

i got the birds going 11-5 w/ losses to NO, CINN, BALT, GB, CAR.

Hmmm....

June 18th, 2010
11:23 am

I can forsee the Falcons not winning their division, finishing like 11-5 behind the Saints, but playing well in the playoffs, winning the Wild Card and Divisional games before losing in the NFC Championship. I just think that our team is quite where the Dallas Cowboys or Minnesota Vikings are in terms of depth, but we’re getting there. I can see the Saints winning the division then crapping out in their first playoff game.

Hmmm....

June 18th, 2010
11:25 am

I can forsee the Falcons not winning their division, finishing like 11-5 behind the Saints, but playing well in the playoffs, winning the Wild Card and Divisional games before losing in the NFC Championship. I just think that our team isn’t quite where the Dallas Cowboys or Minnesota Vikings are in terms of depth, but we’re getting there. I can see the Saints winning the division then crapping out in their first playoff game.

Gritz Blitz

June 18th, 2010
11:36 am

I was a ten year old little boy in a cold Fulton County Stadium on Jan. 4, 1981 when my heart was broken by the Dallas Cowboys. Nothing would be sweeter than to win the NFC Championship against the hated Cowboys and deny them an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl in their own back yard. Rubbing Keith Brooking’s nose in it would be the icing on the cake. Go Falcons!

Band from message baords!

June 18th, 2010
11:36 am

Flacons are staring at 0 – 16!!

Matt Cryan

June 18th, 2010
11:39 am

The saints were a fluke, they are VERY vulnerable. The Hawks are sale? I’ve got a hundred bucks to go towards it

Bill

June 18th, 2010
11:42 am

In spite of his numbers, everyone was slow to recognize how good Drew Brees was last year. This year, defenses will be gunning for him. Look for him to go down with an injury by game 6.

Ted M

June 18th, 2010
11:44 am

Now the losing really starts for the Hawks. They won’t be able to find a buyer for a long time all the while cutting payroll to make the team more attractive.

Saints Fan

June 18th, 2010
11:45 am

Mark, your predictions are hilarious. You can’t compare the Saints to any other team in the NFC South’s past. One thing that many of those teams didn’t have, including Tampa Bay during their Super Bowl run, was an outstanding quarterback. Pay attention to NFL history. All the teams that went on runs had great quarterback play (Elway, Montana, Aikman, Brady, etc.). The other teams that won one and done had great defenses and average QB’s like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay. Atlanta will lose both games to NO this year. Drew Brees is 5-1 vs. the Falcons. I have a stat that you probably aren’t aware of. The New Orleans Saints led the NFL in players ON INJURED RESERVE the past two years. That means they had more players hurt than any team in each of the past two years. Don’t talk about the Falcons not being 100%. The Saints were without their starting left tackle, starting nose tackle all season. Without their starting full back since game 5, not to mention all the other players, including their two fourth round draft picks. One thing the Saints have done in the off season is improve the lower half of their roster. As a result, the back-ups are just as good as the starters and they will improve special teams.

Bigstack19

June 18th, 2010
11:46 am

Everyone loves Dallas but I bet it is Green Bay at Atlanta for the NFC title with the Falcons soaring to the Super Bowl to play the Baltimore Ravens. Write it down.

Hmmmm!

June 18th, 2010
11:46 am

S. Ga. Dawg……kind of prophetic for UGA don’t you think? Close but never first.

Saints Fan

June 18th, 2010
11:50 am

Another thing. Reggie Bush didn’t play against the Falcons this past year, nor did Scott Fujita(SOLB), or Jabari Greer(CB). The Falcons do not stack up with the Saints. Yes, the Falcons are a good team,but they are still middle of the pack. Don’t forget, they are a team of starters. You don’t have back-ups. The only position that I would be concerned about a starter going down with the Saints is at QB. If they stay healthy, the Saints will win it all again this year.

Dave In Tampa

June 18th, 2010
11:54 am

“They’ll win 12 and play for the NFC title”

Smoke em if ya got em Mark! 7 wins tops!

heartofdarkness

June 18th, 2010
11:55 am

Was that referee in the USA-Slovenia match from the NBA?

Who Dat Nation

June 18th, 2010
11:56 am

I would like someone to break down for me how being 13-0 to start the season, then go on to win the Superbowl while beating 3 hall of fame qb’s along the way in the post season is a “fluke”? Not to mention they won the Superbowl by 2 TD’s over the Colts who many picked to mop up the floor with the Saints by 3 or more td’s. With the parity in the league it is very difficult to win multiple championships. I don’t care if the Saints win 6 games in 2010. The 09 was special and nobody can take the championship away, it wasn’t a fluke!