Not. Spoken like a true talking head. Lived in Dallas 18 years- Atlanta many more. Advantage Atlanta- higher fan IQ, higher enthusiasm. Perhaps more discerning in throwing away their ticket money to teams cursed with ownership issues than the sheep of the rust belt citiesAtlanta sports teams just are not taken seriously. Not sure what it is... probably because the ATL is a terrible sports town.
While the Atlanta Falcons wrapped up the NFC South title last week, they have their eyes set on a larger goal.
Hoping to inch closer to securing the conference's No. 1 seed, the visiting Falcons try for a sixth consecutive victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
While Atlanta (11-1) is usually led by an offense that ranks seventh in the league in scoring at 26.4 points, it was a superb defensive display that helped the team pull out a 23-13 win over New Orleans last Thursday. MVP candidate Matt Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for a season-low 165 yards and touchdown, but the Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times to lock up their second division crown in three seasons.
"We've won the division before, so it's not that big of a deal," wideout Roddy White said. "When coach said, 'Congratulations,' nobody was woo-wooing or nothing like that, which is good."
The Falcons, who sit 2 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in the conference standings, could potentially clinch a first-round bye and also home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Sunday coupled with a few unlikely scenarios.
"You have to be happy with where you're at right now, but ultimately it's all about finishing it," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "We set our goals high. That's just part of the step, so now it's on to the next part."
While it's hard to make a case against the Falcons right now, their recent postseason efforts are hard to overlook. Atlanta hasn't won a playoff game since 2004, going one-and-done in its last three appearances.
"We don't worry about it," said Ryan, who had four straight 300-yard games before last week. "We try not to think that far ahead. One of the things I've learned in my five years is that if you're worrying about what you're going to do in January in September, October, November and December, you're wasting your time.
"I've tried to keep that week-to-week focus, but at the same time, we've had some sour tastes in our mouths at the end of the last couple of seasons. So hopefully we'll have an opportunity to change that."
The Falcons have had their way with the Panthers (3-9) of late, scoring at least 30 points in winning each of the last five meetings. Ryan has 11 touchdowns to two interceptions for a 103.9 passer rating during the run, and Michael Turner is averaging 99.4 rushing yards with seven total touchdowns.
The first meeting of the season, though, came down to the wire. Atlanta drove 77 yards in five plays to set up Matt Bryant's 40-yard field-goal with five seconds remaining, lifting the Falcons to a 30-28 victory in Week 4.
The defeat still irritates Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who said Wednesday, "We owe them something and it is coming."
Hardy also said the Panthers are a better team than Atlanta.
The loss at the Georgia Dome in September, was one of seven Carolina defeats by six points or less. The Panthers came up short again last Sunday, falling 27-21 at an emotional Kansas City team that played despite the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide a day earlier.
"You definitely feel for them. What they are going through is tragic," said tight end Greg Olsen, whose only reception went for a 47-yard score. "But we have a job to do. Our job is to come here and prepare to win. They wouldn't expect any less."
Cam Newton continued his impressive play with 232 passing yards and a season-high three touchdowns, and ran seven times for another 78 yards. Newton has eight total TDs - two rushing - and no interceptions over his last three games.
"His outlook on things, the way he perceives things and the way he's handled himself the last few weeks has been outstanding," coach Ron Rivera said. "He's played very well and given us chances to win. We have to take advantage of that."
Although Newton is playing well, the Panthers have allowed an average of 30.0 points in their last three losses. Things aren't about to get any easier after placing defensive end Antwan Applewhite and free safety Sherrod Martin on injured reserve Tuesday.
"It is about trying to win these football games and trending up. That's pretty much it," Rivera said. "We've got an opportunity to play Atlanta and later to play New Orleans - teams in our division - and those are opportunities to send messages and show what we can do.
"That's why we're playing, and we'll go out and play hard."
The Atlanta Falcons played some of their worst football of the season in Sunday's 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers -- at least early on. That had everything to do with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Carolina's second-year starter silenced Atlanta by sustaining drives and keeping Matt Ryan and the Falcons' typically well-prepared defense on its toes. The Panthers built a 16-0 halftime lead by holding the ball for 21:35 minutes during the first two quarters.
Ryan threw for just 40 yards in the first half. He turned it on in the second, finishing with 342 yards total, but this game belonged to Newton. It was his finest performance of the season -- and perhaps of his young career. Newton's 287 yards off 23 completions included better decision-making and a string of key third-down conversions.
Everyone will talk about Newton's 72-yard, highlight-reel touchdown scamper in the third quarter, but his growth was evident in how he kept drives alive with his arm.
Many of Carolina's scoring drives were long, clock-chewing epics. Tight end Greg Olsen's 25-yard, first-quarter touchdown grab from Newton capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive that took up seven-plus minutes. A Graham Gano field goal capped another 17-play, 72-yard march that swallowed more than nine minutes off the clock.
By the time Ryan and the Falcons' offense woke to life, it was too late for them to avoid their second loss of the season.
03:28 – "NFL AM" debates how much the signing of running back Steven Jackson helps the Atlanta Falcons and if it is the missing piece of a super bowl team.
Now all we need is a big run stuffing tackle and starting corner....Osi Umenyiora: Atlanta Falcons 'most talented team'
Osi Umenyiora's impact on Atlanta Falcons
Since Grimes is gone, I'm worried about the second CB. I don't want to see a rookie out there.
Still to be determined. Likely a veteran free agent QB to be signed after the NFL Draft.Who will be Ryan's backup? TIA
It's that time of year. The 2013 NFL Draft rumors are going to start flying fast and furious over the next week.
SI.com's Peter King reported Wednesday that he is hearing the Atlanta Falcons are looking to trade up from the No. 30 spot in the first round.
The Falcons' biggest needs are at cornerback and defensive end. Around The League's Marc Sessler passed along similar buzz on Saturday from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; the newspaper said the Falcons wanted to move up for a cornerback.
Florida State's Xavier Rhodes is a sensible target; Washington's Desmond Trufant might be another possibility. Even though the local paper is saying cornerback, a defensive lineman makes more sense to us as a target. The draft class is deeper with pass rushers.
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has shown in the past that he's not afraid to deal on draft day. The Falcons have an extra fourth-round pick to play with this year.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.
Could end up being the best corner in this draft, loved the pick for the Falcons and great move to move up and make sure to secure the guy they really wanted(just like Julio).
Pick Analysis: "So they've doubled down on the corners: Desmond Trufant and now Alford. We really liked this kid at the Senior Bowl. He's a quick-footed competitor. He can help in the return game and can compete for a starting spot as a corner or as a return man." -- Mike Mayock
By Marc Sessler
Around the League Writer
The 2013 NFL Draft transformed 32 NFL rosters. Around The League will examine the aftershocks in our Draft Fallout series. Next up: The Atlanta Falcons.
The Big Question: Did the Falcons complete their defense?
Thomas Dimitroff dropped breadcrumbs for weeks before the NFL draft. The Falcons general manager hinted that a first-round trade was coming, and he didn't disappoint, swapping Atlanta's 30th overall pick and a third- and sixth-rounder with the St. Louis Rams to move up to No. 22. From there, Dimitroff nabbed Desmond Trufant, a physical cornerback who fills a major need.
Coming within a game of the Super Bowl last season, the Falcons again loom as a favorite in the NFC. Trufant will wear Deion Sanders' No. 21 and figures to start opposite Asante Samuel, but it's premature to call the Washington product the final piece of the puzzle.
Atlanta's pass rush is a question mark. Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora are penciled in on the edge, which probably sounds better in May than it will in November. Osi has gas left in the tank, but the Falcons lack a game-changing presence with an ability to collapse the pocket.
Dimitroff might not be done plucking away at the free-agent scrap heap, but unless someone steps up to crush the quarterback -- that means you, Malliciah Goodman, Cliff Matthews or Jonathan Massaquoi -- Atlanta is missing a wheel.
1. The Falcons didn't use any of their eight picks on the offensive line, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a gang of undrafted prospects stood out for their "super-sized" dimensions at the team's rookie minicamp this week. The group included a trio of 6-foot-7 uglies and a half dozen men north of 300 pounds. But can they play? I'm not in love with this line.
2. Big Men, Part 2: Fourth-rounder Levine Toilolo gives the Falcons a 6-foot-8 tight end to develop before Tony Gonzalez rides off into the sunset. The newspaper said Toilolo "flashed some nice hands" and might win early work as a red-zone target. The Falcons were smart to restock this position ahead of time.
3. I'm not sure Brian Banks will make it to the regular season, but it's hard not to root for the linebacker. Reports out of the rookie sessions talked about Banks being in the right place at the right time and showing power at the point of attack. The Falcons aren't housing Banks for mere giggles, so they see something. It will be fascinating to watch where this goes.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.
By Chris Wesseling
Around the League Writer
Around the League predicted earlier this month that free agent defensive tackle Richard Seymour would end up signing with the Atlanta Falcons, not far from where the veteran defensive trains in the offseason.
The Falcons and Seymour have now begun contract discussions, reports FOXSports.com.
It would be an excellent fit for both sides. Arguably the best free agent available, Seymour is still playing at a high level when healthy. His presence would be a boon to a Falcons defensive line that has struggled to consistently defend the run and cave the pocket, especially against mobile quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
Although the Falcons are up against the salary-cap, they are expected to regain $4.5 million when Tyson Clabo's release goes through after June 1. A Matt Ryan extension also would free up cap space, but that may have to wait until the summer. Either way, the salary cap shouldn't be a major hurdle once June rolls around.
The Falcons picked up much-needed speed in the secondary with the early-round draft selections of sub-4.40 cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Robert Alford. If general manager Thomas Dimitroff can add Seymour to pass rusher Osi Umenyiora, he will have upgraded two of his three levels on defense. Atlanta is keeping pace with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in the NFC arms race.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Dominique Davis remains on track to win the Falcons' No. 2 quarterback job.
During last year's preseason, Davis stirred up some buzz by going 33-of-56 for 402 yards with three touchdowns against three interceptions. This offseason, the Falcons let Luke McCown go and only added seventh-rounder Sean Renfree and undrafted free agent Seth Doege. Matt Ryan has only missed two games in his five-year career, but they're putting a lot of faith in Davis right now.
I don't buy it. I obviously don't know how Dimitroff ranks the players in this draft, but I can't imagine Greg Robinson is so much higher than Matthews/Lewan that he would give up a future 1st and more.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports the Falcons could try to trade up from No. 6 to No. 4 if Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack is still available.
Per Rapeheet, this is a more likely scenario than the Falcons trading up to No. 1. Moving to No. 4 would be key for Mack, as SI's Peter King has reported he won't get past the Raiders at No. 5. The Falcons desperately need to upgrade their defensive line.
Related: Falcons, Browns
Source: Ian Rapoport on Twitter
Falcons selected Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
It's an obvious pick for a team that received embarrassing tackle play last season. We'd expect Matthews to immediately slide in at left tackle, shifting Sam Baker to the right side. Matthews (6-foot-5 1/2, 308) is the son of Hall-of-Fame guard Bruce, and a two-time first-team All-SEC pick. A four-year starter for the Aggies, Matthews played right tackle his first three seasons before replacing Luke Joeckel on Johnny Manziel's blindside in 2013. What Matthews lacks on Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan in build and athleticism. He compensates for with pro-ready technique and superb hand use. He's a bit short armed (33 3/8"), but can play all five positions on the line, and projects as a plus rookie starter.
Your right about that. I did not want them to get Mack. Good thing Atlanta fans are used to disappointment.
Falcons selected Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman with the No. 37 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Hageman (6-foot-6, 310) was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior, finishing his career with 24 tackles for loss including 13 in 2013, with two sacks, nine batted passes, and two blocked kicks. A converted tight end and freaky athlete for his size, Hageman ran 5.02 with a 35 1/2-inch vertical and 9-foot-6 broad jump at the Combine, to go with 32 bench reps. Hageman flashed dominant ability for the Gophers, but his college tape is maddeningly inconsistent. He'll be a 24-year-old rookie and profiles as a boom-or-bust prospect due to snap-to-snap effort concerns. The Falcons run multiple fronts, so Hageman could play some one technique or even kick out as a five technique.
Falcons selected Wisconsin S Dezmen Southward with the No. 68 overall pick in the NFL draft.
Southward (6-foot 1/4, 211) made 30 starts for the Badgers, recording 11.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles. He turned heads at Wisconsin's Pro Day, scorching a 4.38 forty with a 42-inch vertical and 10-foot-4 broad jump. Southward lacks ideal ball skills, but is a plus-sized safety with experience covering college slot receivers, smarts (31 Wonderlic), and can fill in the alley. Southward figures to open his career on special teams, but offers many starting-caliber straits. He'll push Dwight Lowery in training camp to start at free safety, across from SS William Moore.