I thought the second guessing was over. After a couple of years where we questioned the mettle of Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons because of a lack of success in the playoffs, they finally won a game in the postseason and came within four points of playing in the Super Bowl last season.
Not only do the Falcons return the core of that team from a year ago, but they also upgraded their run game with the acquisition of Steven Jackson as well as their pass rush by bringing in Osi Umenyiora.
Why then do I continue to hear experts, analysts and talking heads around the league mentioning San Francisco and Seattle as the top two teams in the NFC and not mentioning Atlanta in the same conversation? I don’t have much of a problem with the love that the 49ers are getting, I’m just perplexed as to why everyone loves Seattle and not Atlanta. What am I missing?
Let’s take a closer look.
Matt Ryan have been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league of the past three seasons. During that stretch, he hasn’t thrown less than 28 touchdowns or more than 14 inteceptions in a season. Over the past three seasons, he has eclipsed the 4000 yard mark twice and led the Falcons to 36 total regular season wins (that’s 12 a year for you non-math types).
In addition to the aforementioned upgrade of Steven Jackson over Michael Turner at running back, the Falcons return without question the most prolific receiver duo in the NFL with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Jones has emerged as one of the elite players in the league, arguably surpassing Andre Johnson as the league’s second best receiver. Tony Gonzalez, who does not appear to age, returns for another season in an attempt to cap off his career with a Super Bowl ring.
Complimenting the skills players, Atlanta returns four of five starters from 2012 on the offensive line.
Defensively, outside of Umenyiora, the only major turnover came at cornerback. That said, Atlanta is in a good spot to deal with those changes with veteran Asante Samuel and first round draft pick Desmond Trufant penciled in as the starters as of right now.
Then you look at Seattle, who Atlanta defeated in the NFC Divisional Round. They return most of their team with the only real upgrade being Percy Harvin at receiver. A lot of people are high on Harvin heading into 2013, but I’m not real sure why. Harvin has never once broken the 1,000 yard barrier and until he got hurt nine games into last season, was on pace to post his career low for yards per reception.
Nonetheless, everyone seems to be crowning the Seattle Seahawks as team 1-B to San Fran’s 1-A in terms of NFC supremacy heading into 2013, despite having only acquired a wide receiver whose previous team arguable had more success without him in 2012.
I’m not sure what’s behind the Seattle love affair, but the evidence suggests we’re paying too much attention to them and not nearly enough to the Falcons and what they are capable of doing on the field. If I’m setting odds for a Falcons-Seahawks game, I’m favoring Atlanta at home and on a neutral field and would even be tempted to set an even line at Seattle.
Whatever the case, we’ll all get to see it play out before our eyes in less than three months. At that time, we’ll see who the real experts are.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 13, 2013