Don't forget about Atlanta
Let’s talk about the Atlanta Falcons today. Even with the 13-3 record, this is a club that doesn’t get a lot of national attention. NFC South champs, the No.1 seed in the NFC playoffs and a quarterback that would have gotten my vote for the MVP award if it weren’t for the production of New England’s Tom Brady. But don’t forget about this squad—because they are a legit No.1 seed.
Here are my five reasons why Atlanta has a real shot to get through Green Bay and even make a run to Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.
The running game: Best in the NFC with Michael Turner. The Falcons’ RB is built to run in the off-tackle power scheme: Lead Strong, Lead Open, Power O, Counter OF, etc. Gets his pads low, breaks tackles and has a quick first step to the hole. This isn’t exotic football we are talking about here—as most of these off-tackle schemes are run on the high school level on Friday nights. However, the Falcons execute and win up front. That is how you produce in playoff football. And Turner can carry the ball 30-plus times if he has to.
ICONMatt Ryan is an ideal fit for the offensive scheme in Atlanta.
Matt Ryan: He is the ideal QB for offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s scheme. Just like we talked about above, the Falcons want to come out of the locker room running the football—but that plays right into the QB position. Play action, the sprint game, boots, etc. Ryan will take care of the football (28 TDs-9 INTS) and he has two big targets in WR Roddy White (who can stretch the field) and TE Tony Gonzalez. Plus, the Falcons will spread the field, and show some empty looks, which allows Ryan to go after the opposing secondary. A pure NFL QB.
Blitz pressure: This defense in Atlanta will come after you. They will use linebacker and safety pressure to blitz off of the edge and in both the A and B gaps. Go back to game vs. the Saints and their multiple pressure looks—because that is what I expect to see in the playoffs. Does that put pressure on the CBs? Without a doubt, but I like the combo of Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. This is a defense that had 22 INTs this season.
John Abraham: The Falcons’ DE racked up 13 sacks in the regular season and he will win his majority of one-on-one matchups. What that translates to from an offensive perspective is using 6-man protection (RB in the protection scheme) or “chipping” on Abraham before the back can get out into the route scheme. Having a DE with this talent is also a luxury when you do want to play coverage in third and long situations. Speed and power off of the edge.
Built like an AFC team: The Falcons are built for playoff football. Similar to the Jets, Steelers, Ravens and even the Patriots when we talk game plans. They can control the tempo of the game and run the ball in the red zone, plus this is the most physical football team in the NFC. Does that translate into a Super Bowl run for Atlanta? We will find out starting Saturday night in the Georgia Dome vs. Green Bay.
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