Directv Sunday Ticket and Superfan – 2009 Edition

If you are a serious football fan, you have been getting Sunday Ticket and Superfan through Directv for years.  2009 offers a few upgrades in service for the upcoming NFL season.  Here’s my take –

Now you can access all your Sunday Ticket programming through your computer and cell phone.  It sounds great for though traveling weekends, but you have to have a pretty recent laptop and cell phone to support the functions.  I got my cell phone in January and already know that it’s not going to support Sunday Ticket.  Basically, you have to have a PDA or IPhone to play this game.

In 2009 all the games will be in HD.  This actually is a big deal, but I will need to see it to believe it.  In 2008, it seemed like every week there would be a game or two in standard definition.  Yes, it’s a game like Cincinnati or Detroit or Oakland, but it would be a shocking sight to rev up the Tivo’ed Short Cuts of a game on Monday morning and have no HD.  This seemed like more of a CBS/Fox issue than a Sunday Ticket problem.  Directv is merely giving you the broadcast that was provided to them.

Atlanta Falcons – Fantasy Football Rankings – Top 100

Michael Turner, #4 overall.  Still trying to figure out why Matt Forte is the running back predicted to jump up the charts in 2009… Turner did have plenty of carries in 2008, but he’s got plenty of tred on his tires from being a back-up in San Diego and will be more efficient with his carries in 2009 with a more balanced offense.

Roddy White, #25 overall, #8 among wide receivers.  I think that’s pretty accurate.  White’s pretty much even with a group of Randy Moss, Boldin, Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne.  Basically saying he’s a in the top 3rd of #1 receivers in the NFL.  White has a lot of upside as Ryan’s go-to guy, but Atlanta does run a lot and won’t run up the score a lot in games.

Tony Gonzalez, #54 overall, #3 tight end behind Gates and Witten.  Witten and Gates will get far more looks in those offenses, so they are rightfully ranked higher.  Gonzalez will get plenty of looks in the red zone, but Atlanta’s offense ran well inside the 10-yard line in 2008.  I would even question Gonzalez being ahead of Dallas Clark (#60 overall) as far as tight ends go with how many more passing plays Indianapolis runs over the course of a season.

Matt Ryan, #61 overall, #8 QB.  Obviously Peyton and Brady and Brees are more valuable fantasy-wise, probably Warner too.  But I would argue that Ryan should be right there around #5.  I don’t see the same upside potential and number of weapons as Ryan will have in 2009.  McNabb might end up with better numbers than Ryan or Cutler, who is rated #9 at the position.

How To Survive The Long July Without Any Falcons’ Football

I would say to focus on other sports, but that leaves you with baseball since the annual hot dog eating contest on Coney Island was this past Saturday.  Baseball is now just for the addicts and “true” fans because of the 3+ hour games where there’s only action for a couple minutes.  We are in a fast culture, so sitting through a baseball game for nine innings on TV is asking a lot.

Get out and play.  It’s been a mild summer so far (at least here in the DC area) and it’s great to get out and play golf, ultimate frisbee and spend time with your loved ones and friends actually outdoors – before you become a shut-in every weekend starting in a coupld months.

Suck up at work.  It’s good to build up points now so that when it’s October and you come in after an overtime Monday night game and 4 hours sleep, you can point to the good times.  In the fall and winter, you waste so many man hours with your fantasy football roster, sorting through statistics and talking about the games from the weekend, that you need to even it out a little bit while you have the chance.

Watch the Falcons’ games from 2008, over and over again.  Become an addict.  Memorize them, learn their tendencies, know Matt Ryan’s completion percentage on 2nd and longs by heart.  Go through the season of Directv Short Cuts like you don’t know what’s coming.  Agonize over the loss to Denver for a week (ahhh, damn Peyton Hillis).  Celebrate the victory over Chicago for days (what were they thinking with that kickoff ?!?!).  Sounds like a good life to me.

Three Falcons Make Top-25 Overrated List

ESPN scoured through all the NFL players to compile its 25 most overrated NFL players recently and the Atlanta Falcons had more than their fair share.  Four times the mathmatical average that would consistute their fair share actually.

#2 Overall – Mike Vick.  Remember that he was a #1 overall draft pick that was traded for the likes of Ladainian Tomlinson AND Drew Brees in 2001.  He is a great runner, but you can to hold your breath when he was actually throwing the ball (quarterbacks do that sometimes in the NFL) because you never knew what would happen.  He was be a nice fit for the Wildcat, but that’s about all.

#10 – DeAngelo Hall.  He’s a freak athlete and dominated in college just on physical ability, but in the NFL, you need smarts and good work ethic on top of ability.  He gets burned a lot and takes chances that rarely pay off.  Basically he’s looking for the Deion Sanders-type play without playing lock down coverage the rest of the plays between the white lines.  When Atlanta played against Hall in Oakland in 2008, Michael Jenkins made him look terrible after the Raiders gave Hall a huge contract. (Oakland later released Hall after a handful of games).

#11 – Keith Brooking.  He received plenty of accolades in his 10 years with Atlanta, but wasn’t as skilled and productive as everyone was thinking.  He played middle linebacker a lot because of injuries in Atlanta and was suspect at best in pass coverage.  Brooking was a productive player that stayed healthy on the field, made a lot of consistent plays and made it to the Super Bowl in 1998.  That’s a good bio-page for an NFL player, but not a guy at the top of his position.

Atlanta Falcons’ History – Some Number-Crunching

Following a playoff appearance, the Falcons are averaging 5.9 wins in their next campaign.  Their best showing coming in 2005 when they were in good shape, but floundered to an 8-8 season in December. 

The Falcons’ scoring of 24 points in the playoff loss to Arizona in 2009 was their highest output in a post-season loss since 1982.

The Atlanta Falcons finished in 2nd place in 2008.  The seasons following the other 8 times the franchise has finished 2nd never included a divisional crown – once they finished second again.

In the 10 seasons since the 1998 Super Bowl year, the Falcons have had more 10+ loss seasons (4), than 10+ win seasons (2).

The 1980s were the worst decade for the Falcons with only one winning season (1980) and 6 years with 5 or fewer wins.

Atlanta Falcons’ History Of Accolades – Could These Droughts End?

Last Defensive Rookie of the Year – Buddy Curry and Al Richardson in 1980.  Curtis Lofton had a nice season in 2008.  Peria Jerry and William Moore will certainly have an opportunity in 2009 with a few big plays and playing consistent for 16 games.

Defensive Player of the Year – NEVER.  John Abraham has the potential to be in the running for the award every year with 15+ sacks.  With help from Sidbury and hopefully Jamaal Anderson, Abraham could be more rested for the late-game moments and in December and January.

Offensive Player of the Year – NEVER.  Matt Ryan has all the skill and work ethic (a la Peyton Manning) to be in the discussion for years.  The offense is loaded, so distributing the ball and managing all the talent will be key.

Super Bowl MVP – NEVER.  Obviously the odds are stacked against having a Super Bowl MVP when you’re only appearance was John Elway’s farewell.  You would have to put the Falcons in the top group in a crowded NFC with teams like New York, Philadelphia, Carolina, New Orleans and Arizona that could be favorites this early in the 2009 campaign.

Michael Boley Out 8-10 Weeks

Thomas Dimitroff is making all the right moves.

In addition to all the positive moves bringing guys into the organization, he seems to let the right guys go as well.  Michael Boley was a guy that was on the verge of a big contract in 2007 as a super-fast linebacker that can run down anyone.  In 2008, Boley was limited to 3rd downs most of the year, then didn’t play much at all because he was constantly out of position and pushed around by offensive linemen and tight ends in the run game.

Michael Boley was released and replaced with veteran Mike Peterson, a tough guy that coach Mike Smith knows well from his days in Jacksonville.  Boley moved on to sign with the New York Giants for 5 years and a hefty $25 million salary.  Early into the off-season routine, Boley injured his hip, underwent surgery and now will probably miss the start of training camp because of his recovery timetable.

While the Giants will be reevaluating their linebacker situation for the next few months, Atlanta sits with their original plan intact – Stephen Nicholas, Curtis Lofton and Mike Peterson manning their posts.

The Re-Signing of Roddy White

Atlanta fans are very aware that Roddy White and Jerious Norwood are approaching free agency.  Roddy White has 2009 as the final season of his rookie deal, one where he has been very underpaid for his performance with Matt Ryan in 2008 and even Chris Redman in 2007.

The Falcons don’t seem in a hurry to sign White to a long-term deal, and they really don’t have to be.  White will be a restricted free agent after the 2009 season, so the Falcons could offer the highest tender, forcing another team to give up two 1st-round picks to sign the premiere wide receiver.  Plus, Atlanta could match the offer of another team to keep Roddy White in a Falcons’ uniform.

Basically, Atlanta has two years to work out a deal with White.  Another top receiver, Greg Jennings in Green Bay, just signed a 3-year deal for $27 million.  That is around the salary per year I would expect White to end up with.  Larry Fitzgerald is the cream of the crop in the NFL at receiver, but one could argue, especially after another Pro Bowl-caliber season from White, that Roddy can covet the 2nd-highest number at the position.

While I believe wide receivers as a rule are replaceable, there are a  small handful of guys in the NFL at any given time at change the game from the position and warrant a high salary and commitment from their team.  Roddy White is one of those guys.  Randy Moss, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, even Terrell Owens still – they change the ways defensive coordinators approach a game.  Roddy White not only makes big plays and stretches the field, he blocks in the run game, which is vitally important to Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and the ground game of Atlanta in the years to come.

NFL Total Access Roundtable – Best Player To Start A Franchise Discussion

It was the most interesting debate on the NFL I’ve seen in a while.  These analysts had the entire NFL to choose from and their choices were very strange to me.  I will give my thoughts on the subject in a minute, first, here’s their selections:

Warren Sapp – Mario Williams.  Says he’s a dominant guy that can play either side of the line and wreak havoc.  I say you can double team him and a defensive end is going to be limited in his impact most of the time.

Marshall Faulk – Shawn Merriman.  An edge rusher that can also play in the coverage game.  Yes, he’s a guy that San Diego sorely missed from 2007 to 2008, but I still say that one single rusher doesn’t make an entire defense.  A good pass rush overall makes a secondary and entire defense better.

Jamie Dukes – DRUMROLL PLEASE……………..Michael Vick.  Yes, the convicted quarterback that hasn’t played in two years and might be playing outside the NFL his first year back.  While he is intriguing in the Wildcat formation, Vick has never shown the ability to throw the ball.  Dukes says Vick’s team would lead the NFL in rushing.  While that’s true, Vick’s Atlanta teams commonly rushed for 160+ yards/game in his prime, the offense sputtered in the passing game, against top defenses and in the playoffs.

I always think a top quarterback trumps any other position in the NFL.  Starting a franchise makes the list shorter because the shelf life of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is a lot shorter than the young quarterbacks – although their resume is more impressive to have leading your team.  Everyone knows running backs are replaceable.  Wide receivers are made a lot better by a running game and a quarterback.  Offensive linemen are important, but playing as a unit with few injuries helps a lot (ask the 2008 Falcons’ offensive line).  Linebackers need a good defensive line to keep them clear (ask Ray Lewis a couple years ago) and a secondary can get exposed after a quarterback has 4 or 5 seconds to scan the field.  So here are my favorite players to start a franchise with as of June 2009……Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Ben Roethisberger.  Ryan is a clear cut above because of his age.  The other two are 27 and 28 respectively, which is why they get the nod over Peyton Manning (33 years old) and Tom Brady (31 years old).  You need the potential for 10 years with the same quarterback to solidify the franchise from the start.

Thomas Brown Interview

Thomas Brown lost his rookie season to injury, but the Georgia product got to stay in state with the Falcons and looks to make the roster here in 2009. 

In his second year, he is looking to make the team and contribute at running back and special teams.  Brown used his injured time in 2008 to learn the offense and get acclimated to the NFL atmosphere.  He talks up special teams and the importance of field position in football.  Atlanta obviously was the best in NFL history in punt coverage in 2008 and will be be a top unit in 2009 with Michael Koenen and Jason Elam kicking and their return units including Jerious Norwood, Harry Douglas and hopefully Thomas Brown.

Brown, like Keith Brooking 10 years ago, was drafted from a Georgia college in the Falcons’ organization and enjoyed success right away – Brooking with a Super Bowl appearance in 1998 against Denver, and Brown (albeit from the sidelines) with an improbable 11-5 playoff campaign.  Thomas Brown hopes for more success in 2009 unlike the 1999 Atlanta Falcons’ season where top running back Jamal Anderson was injured in the first game of the year and things went downhill from there.