Head Coach: Mike Smith
2012 Record: 13-3-0 (1st in NFC South)
New Players: RB Steven Jackson; DE Osi Umenyiora.
Gone Elsewhere: DE John Abraham; RB Michael Turner; QB Luke McCown; CB Brent Grimes; CB Dunta Robinson; OL Will Svitek.
Offense: The Falcons offense revolves around quarterback Matt Ryan and the wide receivers, evidenced by last season as Ryan threw for 4,719 yards with 32 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions.
|QB Matt Ryan aka 'Matty Ice'|
The running game has a new face as Steven Jackson comes over from St. Louis to replace Michael Turner, who seemed to hit the wall last year in his fifth season with the Falcons.
Jackson ran for 1,042 yards while averaging 4.1 ypc and scored four touchdowns last season and will get the bulk of the carries for the Falcons this year. Backing up will be Jacquizz Rodgers (362 yards rushing in 2012) and Jason Snelling, who gained 203 yards on the ground.
The line has center Peter Konz, guards Justin Blalock and Garrett Reynolds and tackles Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes.
Defense: After finishing 24th in the NFL on defense last year, the Falcons made a lot of changes, unloading veterans John Abraham, Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, Vance Walker, Chris Owens and Lawrence Sidbury.
|Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud|
Akeem Dent, Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon are the linebackers with Pat Schiler and rookie Nick Clancy (Boston College) providing depth.
The secondary will likely have a rookie starting at one corner spot with Desmond Trufant (Washington) teaming with Asante Samuel (five interceptions last year) while the safties will be Thomas DeCoud (six picks) and William Moore.
The Falcons intercepted 20 passes a year ago and the defense accounted for 31 takeaways which helped the team to a plus-13 in the turnover charts.
OUTLOOK: After finishing 13-3 last season and finally winning a playoff game in the era of Head Coach Mike Smith, the Falcons feel they can reach their goal of making the Super Bowl.
To do that, they have to get back to the post-season and beat the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated them in the NFC title game last year.
If Ryan can repeat the numbers he put up in 2012, the Falcons offense (especially with the fresh legs of Jackson running the football) should soar once again.
The Falcons averaged 26 points per game while finishing eighth overall on offense (369 yards per game) and sixth in passing with 282 yards per game. The running game must do better after going for only 87 yards per game a year ago.
With some new faces on defense, the opportunistic defense will develop a new chemistry and the Falcons will hope for better results come playoff time. A better pass rush is a must as Atlanta managed only 29 QB sacks last season.
Another NFC South division title is likely for the Falcons this year with a 11-5 finish being good enough to get the job done.
Whether the Falcons can take the next step and reach the Super Bowl will depend on both Ryan's and the defense post-season performances.
Sept. 8- at New Orleans
Sept. 15- vs. St. Louis
Sept. 22- at Miami
Sept. 29- vs. New England
Oct. 7- vs. NY Jets
Oct. 13- BYE WEEK
Oct. 20- vs. Tampa Bay
Oct. 27- at Arizona
Nov. 3- at Carolina
Nov. 10- vs. Seattle
Nov. 17- at Tampa Bay
Nov. 21- vs. New Orleans
Dec. 1- at Buffalo
Dec. 8- at Green Bay
Dec. 15- vs. Washington
Dec. 23- at San Francisco
Dec. 29- vs. Carolina