Before I get into this article I want to go on record and let it be known that I am a huge Atlanta Falcons fan. I was raised in the Atlanta area and I support all the home teams but I root for the Falcons the hardest.
Now that I got that out the way I’m going into journalism mode and be as objective as I can with this piece.
Sports Illustrated NFL Preview hit stands today and in this issue senior NFL writer Peter King predicted that the Falcons will win Super Bowl XLVI, defeating the San Diego Chargers 24-20. He has them going 10-6 and finishing second to the Saints, whom he also has at 10-6 in the NFC South. King believes the Falcons will go on a Packer-like run: beating the Rams, the Packers and the Saints — all on the road — to win the NFC title and then beating San Diego in the Super Bowl.
Now as a fan I have mix feelings about this pick. On one side I’m happy that my team is getting the recognition that I feel they deserve. On the other hand I don’t like it because its like a jinx. When someone makes a prediction its a 50/50 percent chance that the prediction will come true. Last year King had the Steelers and the Packers playing in Super Bowl XLV, with the Steelers coming out on top. But as we all know the Packers won.
So as a fan, I’m taking King’s pick with a grain of salt.
Now I’m putting back on my sports journalism hat. I believe that Falcons have 90% of the puzzle pieces together to be a consider a Super Bowl contender. They added explosiveness to an already good offense when they drafted wide receiver Julio Jones. And with the Falcons’ explosive running game I have no doubt the Dirty Birds will put up some points this season.
But they are missing a critical piece that I believe will have them losing in the playoffs again this year. That piece is a dominate secondary.
Last year, Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers lit up the Falcons’ defense in that 48-21 win over Atlanta in the playoffs. Manly because of a lack of a pass rush. The Falcons addressed that area when they signed free agent defense end Ray Edwards. With Edwards, defensive end John Abraham and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux in the middle the Falcons will definitely get to quarterbacks quicker than they did last year.
Babineaux has been very impressive this preseason and he will be a force on the defensive line.
Rogers also had a stellar performance in that game because of terrible coverage in the secondary. Defensive backs Thomas DeCoud, Brent Grimes, William Moore, Christopher Owens and Dunta Robinson just couldn’t keep up with the Packers wide receivers.
Atlanta finished 22nd against the pass last season. I thought the Falcons got a little better in the secondary this year because of the praise coming out of training camp about the young corners, Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens. The two have been battling for the starting nickel back spot and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the two progress.
But after bathroom Ben thrashed the secondary last Saturday, the secondary pretty much looked the same as last season. The Falcons’ secondary made Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown look like the number one receiver in the league. Roethlisberger and Brown hooked up on two touchdowns of 77 and 44 yards.
The Falcons added some depth to the secondary when the signed former Patriots safety James Sanders last night. Sanders will be that experienced depth behind Moore and DeCoud.
The Falcons are a very good team and will definitely make some noise in the NFC. But until they have a Steelers-like or Jets-like secondary I can’t see them winning the Super Bowl this year. But I hope they prove me wrong.