Archive for the ‘Atlanta Falcons’ Category

Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner - this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner – this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Forget the calls for a three-peat or for ‘one for the thumb’, there is always something special about an NFL franchise winning its first ever Super Bowl.

In my lifetime I have seen (live on tv in England in the early hours of the morning that is) seven teams with their inaugural Vince Lombardi Trophy;

  • New York Giants (1987) – first of four
  • Denver Broncos (1998) – first of two
  • St Louis Rams (2000) – only title
  • Baltimore Ravens (2001) – first of two
  • New England Patriots (2002) – first of three
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2003) – only title
  • New Orleans Saints (2010) – only title

Now I am not including the 2007 Indianapolis Colts in this list as they were the Baltimore Colts who were winners back in 1971.

So why the lengthy reminiscence? Well I am convinced we are going to add another new team to the first-time trophy club this upcoming season.

NFL FAN IN ENGLAND’s 2013 NFL 2013-14 SEASON PREDICTIONS

NFC East – Washington Redskins

NFC West – San Francisco 49ers

NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

NFC North – Detroit Lions

NFC Wild Cards – Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks

NFC Championship – Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

NFC Representative – Atlanta Falcons

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC West – Denver Broncos

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Championship – Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

AFC Representative – Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl XLVIII winner – Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl MVP – Matty Ice Ryan – QB Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Player of the Year – Colin Kaepernick QB San Francisco 49ers

Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechely LB Carolina Panthers

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Eddie Lacy RB Green Bay Packers

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jon Bostic ILB Chicago Bears

NFL MVP – Aaron Rodgers QB Green Bay Packers

Comeback Player of the Year – Darelle Revis CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach of the Year – Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals

Most Improved Team – Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Disappointment Team – Toss up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Atlanta Falcons were so close last season to reaching their second Super Bowl last season that they could almost taste the promised land. This was with a starting running back that was slower than a snail without an agenda.

Now the Falcons have Steven Jackson in the backfield, admittedly no rocket launcher, but certainly a huge upgrade with soft hands and a ‘win it all now’ attitude following a decade in St Louis that many consider wasted.

Future Hall of Fame tight-end Tony Gonzales is back for a Balboa-esque ‘one last shot’ at a title, having finally shaken the playoff win monkey off his back last season.

I know that defense wins championships and the Falcons defense is certainly no ’85 Bears vintage, but they have the playoff experience, the hunger and a nice blend of veteran experience (DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Asante Samuel) youth (rookie starting CB Desmond Trufant) and those with experience who are not household names but play hard (LB Akeem Dent and DE Kroy Biermann).

It’s hard to equal the talent of Atlanta’s number one and two wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.

The biggest problem for the Falcons is quality of depth. If one ore more of the big names goes down with injury then this will have a huge effect on the team being able to get a 13-3 regular season record. If they remain fully fit and can get a bit of luck, then the likes of the 49ers and Seahawks will be beatable.

The trend for multi-dimensional quarterbacks will not go away this year, and studs like Russell Wilson, RG3 and Colin Kaepernick will make lots of headlines, but you don’t win conference championships with wideouts like Golden Tate, Josh Morgan or Jon Baldwin.

Joe Flacco went from lukewarm to boiling hot in the playoffs last year, I think that Matt Ryan can do the same, and having the feeling of being a touchdown away from a Super Bowl will have been on his mind for the last nine months.

I raise my glass of  (Matty) Iced (Georgia) Peach to my Super Bowl XLVIII paper champions the Atlanta Falcons.

Cue the ridicule…………………..

S-Jax - will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

S-Jax – will he be be the man to finally get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl?

It’s been a crazily busy week as 2013 Free Agency in the NFL has been in full effect.

Starting with some big wide-receiver moves, including Wes Welker (going from catching bass from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another) and Mike Wallace moving to the Florida sunshine, its been tough keeping up with all the moves.

One team that I think has been a big winner is the Atlanta Falcons.

The NFC Championship losers just two months ago, they grabbed the best free-agent running back on the market in the form of veteran punisher Steven Jackson.

Jackson has been a loyal servant to the St Louis Rams, whilst the talent around him has been pretty atrocious over the past decade.

Jackson came into a Rams team that was fresh from two Super Bowl appearances, but has been about as competitive as Mother Teresa in the time he has been there.

Like Barry Sanders, Jackson was the brightest shining star on a team of grubby meteors (always descending), so to be picked up by a team that was less than a touchdown from the Super Bowl will be one almighty relief for him. S-Jax will be a significant upgrade on the chunky thighed plodder Michael Turner, and he will provide a formidable backfield partner to third-year back  Jacquizz Rodgers.

Rodgers has not had the chance to prove himself as a three-down back, and wont get the chance now Jackson is signed, but he is a great receiver in the backfield with 74 catches in his first two seasons in the NFL.

In addition the Falcons persuaded future Hall of Fame enshrinee Tony Gonzales to come back for one more season.

There are some excellent tight-ends available in the 2013 NFL Draft, and the Falcons may pick one up as the heir-apparent in Round Two or beyond, but to have Gonzo back, with his 70-90 catches is going to have Matt Ryan smiling.

Atlanta have also re-signed safety William Moore and offensive linemen Garrett Reynolds and Sam Baker. No superstar names here, but keeping your own garden tidy is always important if you want to grow sweet smelling roses.

With the free-agency market showing  few signs of slowing down we can expect more movement this weekend, and I will be spending time reviewing every move.

A few of the quieter free-agency moves, beyond those taking place in Georgia, that have caught my eye  include:

  • Lorenzo Alexander (LB) Washington to Arizona – Alexander is not a household name, nor a starter even, but he went to the 2013 Pro Bowl as a demon special teams tackler. The Redskins could not afford him because of salary cap penalties, but they will miss him for sure. In Arizona he will get the chance to start at outside linebacker, but I doubt he will become a Pro Bowler again in the desert.
  • James Casey (TE/FB/HB) Houston to Philadelphia – Casey moves from a Texans team where he should have featured as a 50-60 catch tight-end, but instead was used as a fullback. In Philly he should be moved all over the field and could have a huge 2013 being the safety blanket for Michael Vick in new head coach Chip Kelly’s explosive offensive scheme.

More free-agency commentary to come, after I get a decent coffee.

kaep Cast your mind back to April 29 2011, the day the San Francisco 49ers introduced their rookie quarterback to the national media.

Asked if he was the Niners quarterback of the future Colin Kaepernick said: ““Well, I think I’m going to come in and just work as hard as I can and try to compete for that starting spot.

“When it comes down to it, that’s going to be Coach Harbaugh’s decision whether her feels I’m ready and he feels I’m the best quarterback for that. For me, I’m just going to try to do my part and work hard.”

Well barely 19 months later and all that hard work must have paid off as Kaepernick is not only the 49ers starting quarterback, he is also 60 minutes from an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII and is just about the hottest quarterback in the entire United States of America.

Kaepernick not only beat the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the divisional playoffs he made them roll over and beg for a bone. Passing for 263 yards and two touchdowns in is playoff debut is enough for any mortal, but it appears Kaepernick is more Zeus that Perseus after he ALSO rushed for 181 yards, not only a playoff rushing record for a quarterback, but the greatest rushing performance by a quarterback in NFL history.

Just pause for a minute to suck that one in to your statistics filled male brain (sorry to all female NFL stats geeks) the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history. More the Michael Vick, more than Randall Cunningham, more than Steve Young.

Talking of Steve Young, he was the last 49ers quarterback to lift a Vince Lombardi Trophy, way back in 1995.

Kaepernick will be hoping his bionic inked arms will be wrapped around a Super Bowl in early February, but first to the business of getting there, against an Atlanta Falcons team that finally won a big playoff game (as I correctly predicted last week).

The Falcons managed to blow a 20 point lead in a home playoff game against a rookie quarterback. I know Kaepernick has actually had less starts than the aforementioned rookie Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but second year man Colin is currently the hottest property since T-Boz burnt down Andre Rison’s house back in the day. And yes I do remember Rison was playing for none other than the Falcons at the time.

Kaepernick is arguably even more mobile than Wilson, and has a supporting cast that is arguably better than the Seahawks.

The Falcons may be the home team, but it was the 49ers who were at this stage a year ago only to blow it against the Giants. I’m confident that Kaepernick is the missing link (no not a hairy cave beast) in enabling San Francisco to return to their holy land.

Nobody is seriously expecting Kaepernick to rush for another 150 yards, but with confidence sky high I am going to make the call now that I predict the 49ers to be representing the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl.

All we need to do now is get a catchy name for Colin Kaepernick. The Falcons have ‘Matty Ice’, the 49ers need something even better for Kaepernick. How about a having a Colinick ? Sounds painful for the Falcons this Sunday.