September 7, 2010 6:34 AM
I honestly don't know if I just really like the Falcons and am finagling a way for them to be good, or if it's because I picked them to be good a year ago and they let me down....or if they're legitimately a good team.
But for the second year in a row I'm putting a lot of marbles on the Falcons - and this year it's in part because they did underachieve last year. It can't happen two years in a row, right?
A year ago the Falcons finished 9-7. That was good enough for second place in their division, but still four games behind the Saints. And two out of a wild card playoff spot. Not a terrible season - it was the first time in team history they posted back-to-back winning seasons - but the expectations were higher.
The Falcons are a solid team. Matt Ryan has already shown flashes of it - but he is going to be a great quarterback. This, his third year, could be his best yet. The defense can step it up - look at the season-ending three game winning streak for the Falcons. They won games 10-7, 31-3, and 20-10. They weren't against offensive juggernauts (the Jets, Bills, and Buccaneers), but they were impressive showings nonetheless.
The Falcons' biggest competition will come from within their division in the form of New Orleans, and the Falcons twice gave the undefeated Saints a run for their money a year ago. Both games were decided by just one score - look for the Falcons to split their matchups with New Orleans this year and send a message that the Saints should see them as a threat.
Whether or not the Falcons have earned the respect I'm giving them - I expect a third straight winning season for the franchise. And they just could end up matching the achievements of the 1998 team - the best in franchise history - when all is said and done.
2010 Prediction: 14-2, 1st Place in NFC South