Grantland: The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders

Julio's back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio’s back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio's back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Julio’s back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As we know, offseason appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons have run from lukewarm (Football Outsiders projected them to be better but not quite good) to lousy (Pro Football Focus assessed theirs as the NFL’s 30th-best roster). Here’s one, from Bill Barnwell of Grantland, that’s wildly — wildly, I say — encouraging.

Barnwell lists the Falcons as one of the eight teams that can win it all. His reasoning:

I just think it’s shortsighted to write off a team that was so good for so long after one bad year. I can’t really prove that, because there just aren’t many historical comparables for the Falcons. I tried looking back at teams since the merger that averaged 11 or more wins per season over a four-year stretch before finishing with six wins or fewer during the next season. That fits the Falcons, who won 45 games (11.3 per year) from 2009 to 2012 before going 4-12 in 2013.

There are only nine other teams in that bucket since the merger. They averaged 8.9 wins in the season after their sudden collapse, and five of the nine won 10 games or more. It’s too small of a sample to prove anything, but it is fair to say teams have been on this roller coaster ride before and come out of it smiling. My suspicion is that the Falcons are one of those teams.

That’s kind of line with my thinking. I don’t believe the Falcons were as bad as they looked in 2013. (Although they did look pretty bad.) They had a bad schedule, a slew of injuries and not much luck. I believe they’ve gotten better via their offseason acquisitions. But mostly I believe those five consecutive winning seasons weren’t a figment of Arthur Blank’s imagination.

Which is why I’ve picked them to go 10-6. (So has Barnwell, FYI.) Which is why I believe they’ll beat the Saints on Sunday.

Reader Comments 0

73 comments
Blasingame
Blasingame

The Birds are still paying the Julio tax.  At best, they will win 8 games; more probably, they'll go 6-10 or 7-9.

jerunamo
jerunamo

The game is played on the field, not in the sports page articles.  Who cares what Grantland said.

58Supersports
58Supersports

It won't take long to find out, say 4 games?

WilliamCoit
WilliamCoit

Mr. Blank deserves more than this team has given him. He's a much better owner than the Smith family and he's willing to put his money where his mouth is and sign good players. Its the ineptness of the coaching staff and the general manager that's preventing the Falcons from truly reaching their potential. I'm not a HOMER like you, I'm a realist. 8 -8 or 9 -7 is the best this team will do.


Need a Shipping Container? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFHGmqZtKGo

reckingball
reckingball

Perhaps the question should be, do you think that the Falcons could win it all. 

reckingball
reckingball

The question, could the Falcons win it all, is flawed. Yes they could win it all, it is possible, but not probable.

WaltBBall
WaltBBall

The FALCONS have it all as far as skilled players and the depth for those positions range from solid to good.  The "O" line will give S. Jackson that crack to run through and he still remains a 240lb muscle, last season he didn't have a crack and still averaged 3.5 yards.  The FALCONS will score on anyone, there's no argument about that.

The "D" line is where I hope there's a huge improvement; a let's pretend pass rush will be beneficial, that's a step above no pass rush at all.  The defense have to get off the field, stopping the run is a must.  M. Tice and B. Cox have a beat em up and lets bang mindset, that ole school mentality and the kind of players who will bring that "lunch pail, blue collar," time to get the job done and call it a day work ethic.  Excuses are a thing of the past.

Can the FALCONS beat the "aint's, yes they can.  Matty Ice knows his playbook and has the players who can deliver.  I feel good about this season and the FALCONS appear to have a calm about them.  Tomorrows game means a lot to us, watching our FALCONS stoomp the "ainty's" will be a good feeling, in many ways it's a "must" win, in the grand scheme of things its one game, a loss means I can lQQk forward to a 15 and 1 season.  lololol

I guess i'm a tad more optimistic than 10-6 but that's good to see, a solid winning season is redemption.  I had them at 11-5 at the worst and 13-3 at the best, tomorrows game will be the precursor to my thrill of victory and agony of defeat.  A healthy Ryan with time to throw to these superstar receivers and who knows what kind of explosion can occur.  Injuries killed the FALCONS, I hope that is not something to live with this season (tacctfc).

Centrist
Centrist

Oh ThomasBrownUGA, you GurleyBoy you!  Just hand the Heisman to Gurley now and while we're at it just give the crystal trophy to the Dawgs too.  As Sports Illustrated once said a couple of years ago, the most delusional fan base in college football.  Preseason national champions for 34 straight years. 

Falcons Super Bowl contenders? Hahahahahaahaha!!!!  They'll do what they usually do, march up and down the field to kick field goals while the other team scores touchdowns.  There are at least a half dozen other teams who are much better contenders than the  Falcons.  And then there is Seattle.

'Aints by 13.

SOB
SOB

@Centrist That's the pattern under the present so called head coach. Change starts at the top.

kerryb
kerryb

Produce a link to that article. You made that up and you're a big LIAR.

kerryb
kerryb

I think I"ll hold off with that until I see if Jackson is now healthy. I think he could have played the preseason but the Falcons decided to keep him out to make sure he is healthy. Jackson behind a better line could be a good thing for the Falcons.

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Wow Eddie lacy was available and the Falcon's passed on him, and the defense will have to be like no other the Falcon's have had in the recent past boarding on GREAT for them to be a contender.


Just like the Braves can win it all... SURE....... perhaps all the other contenders will just fold !

buztech
buztech

The Cons are pretenders.  Nothing's  changed from last year's team that couldn't score TDs inside the red zone.  The defense is a sieve.  At best, maybe 1 or 2 more wins this year.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Falcons38- Bunch of Cheaters34

quanxavier
quanxavier

I love my retooled team however we have 18 games to prove it.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Falcons are better than last year's 4 wins. This does not make them a contender. They are not! Nor are the Braves. Nor are the Hawks.

Same problem with every Atlanta team. Good coaches - GM's that supply them weak rosters. Falcons did not have 1 player in the NFL's top 100. This is 100% on Thomas Dummytroff. Danny Ferry even worse. And then there's Frank Wren with BJ and Uggla. That's why all our teams are mediocre or just slightly better.

Dawggie
Dawggie

@TreeRollins  Wren is also the guy who built up the Braves minors after Schuerholz decimated it with the Tex trade.  He also went out and go J Upton, Gatis, Santana, Johnson.  Besides, any GM woulda signed Uggla and B Upton based on what their career numbers were. 

Wren doesn't have a crystal ball, like you geniuses apparently do . . .

bennyhayes
bennyhayes

Carolina has been written off by some "experts," but they still are tough in the trenches. That is where games are won or lost. Panthers are going to stay in games on that alone. Falcons are paying Jackson $3 million this year to sit in the hot tub, while Freeman, Smith, and Rodgers do the lion's share of work. O-line and D-line cannot match up with TB and Carolina(or NO).

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Mark Bradley. I agree with you.

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Drew Breezy would be ashamed of these saints fan!

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

I for one think they can win it all.and all of ya'll who think otherwise, I hear the saints are lookin for more fans.

Jmonty
Jmonty

The Falcons still have issues on the "O" line.  Holmes is horrible.  I haven't seen anything to show that they can run the ball either.  I think we'll go 8-8.  As for this weekend?  The Saints are just too good.  Saints win in an ugly one.  38-17

gfw
gfw

@Jmonty Agree about the Holmes of old.  Jury's out on whether he has somehow transformed himself.  I'll just add that Hawley, too, was often painful to watch, especially dropping back in pass protection.  Did he and Holmes get stronger/better in the off-season?  I guess we'll find out.  But I have no reason, yet, to believe it.  And even Matthews was inconsistent in the pre-season (no big surprise there, given he's a rookie).  Our O-line would currently grade to about NFL-average, at best, so it seems likely that it will often be swamped by the Saints' pass rush.  I sure hope I'm wrong and that I get pleasantly surprised about that.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

The historical comparable is easy: Falcons w/ Mike Vick - playoffs, Falcons w/o Mike Vick - toilet, Falcons w/ Mike Vick back - playoffs.

Falcons w/ Julio Jones - playoffs, Falcons w/o Julio Jones - toilet, Falcons w/ Julio Jones back - ?

It certainly is not a stretch guess.

I certainly put the Falcons in the top 25, which is better than sneaking into the top 30, at the bottom position.

tyger
tyger

Nothing to fear but themselves...


Universal question is which Falcons are these?

The 2012 "10 yds away" or the 2013 "OMG" version...

Well, lets examine...


2013 marred by injuries...

2014, Spoon, Baker, Johnson missing...

Only Spoon hurts...


No longer Kissin Cussins upfront...

Johnson & Baker, hurt again...

Konz benched, w Carimi...

This is an upgrade...


Jones, White, Douglass, Hester is strong...

Toilolo is no Gonzalez but let's see...

Ryan + RB are deep...


Sum: 2014 slightly better than 2013...

No Gonzalez but no Baker + Konz = wash


2013 wiped defense out...

Peters, Beirmann, Spoon, Asante...

Lots of money in street clothes...


New faces same results...

Still no push upfront...

LBs tackle w/o impact...

Babx, Osi, Willy Mo...


Key: Secondary 

2012: Asante 15G  19PD  5Ints  1TD

        Decoud 16G   9PD  6Ints  0TDs


2013: Alford + Trufant combined: 4Ints, 0TDs...



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Contenders?  I think he meant to say Pretenders! 

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Falcons winning only 8games at the most.


Will lose there first 2 games.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

devounknown1000
devounknown1000

Mike Nolan is overrated, just my opinion.


What have he done since being here.


Coach Smith and TD could get there walking papers after this season.


GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

It appears to me the Falcons are closer to GB than Seattle. Jackson has to prove he can once again be a legitimate running threat (like a Lynch or even Lacy), the o-line is average at best (likely below average), the linebackers and pass rush are sub-par, and the secondary has yet to prove it is not porous.


I will believe in the Falcons when I see them step up and address these issues on the field.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Grantland: The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders"


If they are trying to sell something they might want to curb the ridiculous proclamations. MAYBE the Falcons scrape enough defense and blocking together to compete, but in prior years with a stronger defense and more complete offense they couldn't get it done.


Saw everything I needed to see last night. Falcons are not at that level.

warfalcon
warfalcon

@DawgDadII  And what did you see?


LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Baghead
Baghead

The Falcons CANNOT win it all.  If anyone watched Seattle last night, you'd know we are not in the same league. They are light years ahead of Atlanta.  Mike Nolan wishes he was half the man the DC out of Seattle is.  

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

@Baghead I agree - It's Seattle and then it's everyone else.  But if you're dividing the league into 4 segments for an article and you're choosing the best 8 teams, then it's much less ridiculous that the Falcons are included.

AintsNoMo
AintsNoMo

Well, I have had many humorous moments during every football season since Mr, Roddy White has joined the Dirty Birds, listening and watching him run his mouth.  Now if Roddy could just translate that into running up and down the field, catching some balls, stuff like that, the Dirty Birds might win a game or two.  Just sayin'..........

warfalcon
warfalcon

LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


BEAT THOSE aints

LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

I find it shocking that any media offering associated with Bill Simmons would say ANYTHING good about a sports team associated with Atlanta or Georgia, especially the Falcons.  True, the article was written by Bill Barnwell who has offered astute musings in the past.  In fact, I seem to recall at the start of last year's NFL season that Mr. Barnwell thought the Falcons would take a step back (and that was before the Injury Cavalcade).  Color me shocked!  That said, I agree with Mr. Barnwell.      

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@DeaconBlues 

Simmons is a Boston guy.  Atlanta isn't on the radar for him.  The opponents they hate are Yankees in baseball (and everything else), Lakers and Canadians

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

@DeaconBlues Simmons, like any good editor, doesn't control what his writers write as long as it's based on good logic/data, as Barnwell's pieces almost always are.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Really important 1st game. If the Falcons get kerwhonkered by the Saints, and they may very well, they could lose belief very quickly and head right back for another last year....

Btown3
Btown3

Guys, who cares what these so called experts wrote. I've written on other blogs, the Falcons at best will be 13-3 , 12-4 at worse. If everyone stays healthy they will be 14-2. The Green Bay games concerns me, because it's later in the year. The cold weather. They will win the division, and play Green Bay in the NFC championship game. This time we get our payback, and play either San Diego or the New York Jets, lead by Mike Vick. So it's going to be Vick versus Ryan. Ryan and the FALCONS WIN!!!

I want everyone on hear to remember this post. This is guaranteed!! By the way, Matt Ryan will be the MVP of the NFL. I know some of u thinks I'm crazy, but I'm standing by my words. I really believe something special is going to happen this year. We have a KR/PR. Haven't had that since Deion. So he's going to give us good field positions and TDs. I think Holmes will be better than people think. I'm only concern about getting pressure on the QB.

Now to all the ATL fans, please do not sit on your butts on Sunday. We need the Dome Rocking and noisy. I'm tired of hearing about our city. We need to make sure every team that comes into the DOME, does not fill at home. We need to make sure every QB that comes into the dome can't hear anything. So RISE UP!!!! This game is going to come down to a field goal, or late TD. Final score, FALCONS 34 AINTS 31. By the way, Drew Brees will have two interceptions, and a fumble loss.

So stop listening to these former NFL players predictions, sports writers, and all the other ones. It's easy to go with Seattle, San Fran, Denver, New England, etc. It's one game at a time, and the Falcons will be in the thick of it. Mark, remember this blog!!! I will be responding after every game.

warfalcon
warfalcon

@Btown3  I am with you on all parts of your comments.


ONE GAME AT A TIME,1st up the aints.


LETS GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dawg4u
dawg4u

@Btown3  I am a big Falcon fan and what you are predicting sounds really good but - can I have a glass of whatever it is you're drinking!

Wilbo
Wilbo

@Btown3 You are completely crazy. Possibly 14-2!? 12-4 at worst? Do you know anything about football?

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Got to admire your grit for stepping up with this prediction before the birds have even played their first game. I guess that we will know soon enough if you were boldly accurate, or sentimentally stupid.