Mel Kiper was just on the radio, talking about the turnarounds of teams like Atlanta, Baltimore and Miami in 2008. He talked about the huge expectations of these teams’ fans heading into 2009, where playoffs are a given and possibly a Super Bowl appearance. Atlanta fans aren’t that over the top. There’s a little more “Philly fan” in them from what I see on message boards this off-season. People recognize that the offense was overhauled (in a good way) last year and Matt Ryan looks like a franchise quarterback. Here’s the things that need to get worked out in 2009 for the season to be a success…..
Avoid the big injuries…..Every NFL team is on board with this one. Most teams can’t circle the wagons like New England last year when Brady went down and still reel off 11 wins. A prolonged injury to a key player could derail most NFL teams for the season.
As of March 15th, 2009 the defense is worse than 2008…..with all the losses and only a Mike Peterson signing, the fragile defense in 2008 is still a shell. There are tons of questions about draft picks coming in, injury status of guys like Robert James from 2008 and development status of guys like Coy Wire and Kroy Biermann on the defensive side of the ball.
Schedule….Atlanta has a much more difficult slate in 2009. There are two ways to look at it – well, the division mostly plays the same teams, so everyone in the South will get their share -OR- a difficult regular, while it could produce fewer wins, will get a team tough and ready for the playoffs more than a lollipop regime.
Overall, I see Atlanta fans with true optimism (for the first time in a while) heading into the 2009 NFL season, where we are on the right track to have some consistent success. Remember this franchise still hasn’t recorded two consecutive winning seasons in its history (even years are good years, odds not so much lately). Having a top quarterback makes the season a little easier, but ask John Elway about the importance of a supporting cast. The good news is the Falcons have a lot of things moving in the right direction – young team, good head coach and personnel department, no albatross veteran contracts, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner are all near the top of their respective positions.
2009 promises to be exciting for the Atlanta Falcons and their fans, but the consensus is not like that in Baltimore where the kool-aid bowl at the party is by a big poster than says “Super Bowl or Bust.”