Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlight at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: we take a look at the Atlanta Falcons and their newly minted QB, Diamond Matt Ryan (pictured above).
I regret to inform you that you’ve failed to upgrade your roster this offseason, and for that reason, you will continue to wallow in playoff purgatory for the foreseeable future.
A team like the Falcons reminds me of those racing-striped Dodge Vipers from the 90’s: they’re the worst of the best. All swag. All stats. Real expensive. Big engine. Small you-know-what. At the end of the day, no one takes you seriously because a 600 horsepower pussy-magnet doesn’t corner well, and they don’t give a trophy for sick offensive stats and best regular season record. Capece?
After finishing 13-3 last year and barely making it out of the divisional playoff round against a rookie QB, you’ve got to be thinking, “Is this the fucking Atlanta Braves?” Well, it’s not, because the Braves got that championship monkey off their backs early on in their decade-long regular season dynasty.
Now that Matt Ryan and Mike Smith have jumped the shark and won a playoff game, they’ll be expected to win the whole thing. Bring bananas, because that monkey is on your back now and it will get hungry.
Also, good luck with Osi Umenyiora. John Abraham was a powerful inside rusher who ended up with 10 quality sacks last year on a squad that finished 24th in yards allowed (seven forced fumbles, six passes defended, and 32 tackles). He’s gone now. By contrast, his replacement, Osi Umenyiora (six sacks, one pass defended, 15 tackles), rushes the passer the way you would in Madden ‘95: just running big loops around the outside of the line, hoping they forget you’re still part of the play. Then he chops at the ball. You’ll appreciate his unique take on defense, as it resembles the chop y’all do at Braves games — though slightly less physical.
Oh, and if you thought that was the only bad thing about Osi, you’d be wrong. His flag-football pass rushing methodology opens up running lanes like floral shops in The Castro during gay wedding season. I honestly don’t think he’s tackled a non-thrower since 2007. He may just try and chop at them, too. And as far as his sack statistics go, they’re almost always skewed by one big, stupid game where he gets to a thrid string guy eight times in the fourth quarter of a blowout. Seriously, good luck with him and his tiny shoulder pads. He sucks, and he’s complainy.
Before we get to Matty Ice’s shiny new contract, let’s talk about the other addition you guys made: Ostensibly a one-for-one trade involving over-the-hill RB Michael Turner (31) for still-got-something-in-the-tank Steven Jackson (30). Definitely an upgrade, but not exactly the kind that will definitely get you past the 49ers — which is the goal this season for the whole NFC. Nice try, but you’ll need a playmaker at RB if you want to keep that defense off the field against that tough schedule you’ve been assigned. Without considering the fact that Saints get their coach back, and the Panthers have dramatically improved — you’ll face five teams this season that made the playoffs last year (49ers, Seahawks, Patriots, Packers, Redskins).
Now for the big offseason news. We’re glad Matt Ryan could enter the dominion of incredibly wealthy Quarterbacks. He deserves it. So much so, that he’ll probably spend the season picking out which imported Italian marble he’s going to put in his second upstairs salt water swimming pool, and not watching film. If you think of his career as a Rocky-Balboa-underdog-struggle-to-be-taken-seriously, you’ll soon realize that signing that the second biggest contract in the sport is a terrible thing for his psyche (5-years, $103 big ones). Unless you haven’t seen Rocky 3. When he’s not reading scripts for his new production company, he’ll be busy not living up to his obscene, new, Tom Brady-esque standards he has now set for himself. Expect him to buy a lot of Picasso’s blue period this season, because he’ll feel like a fraud and a shell of his former self and cry a bunch on his victorian era chaise lounge. He’ll have an armada of these…
One reason you might not be screwed: Julio Jones, Julio Jones, Julio Jones. Possibly the NFL’s best non-Transformer at the WR position, JJ has emerged as the teams top offensive threat, somehow managing to dethrone Mr. Reliable Roddy White (79 receptions for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns in your 2nd year will do that). If this guy continues to improve, you’ll have a star on your hands for the next 5-10 years, which will be the biggest thing to hit Atlanta since terrible, terrible, terrible club hip hop. Also, Tony Gonzalez is back, and he’s the best in the biz. Expect ginormous numbers from the receiving corps once again.
Actual season prediction: 11-5, first in NFC South. This sounds like a shitty year given Ryan’s insane-o record at home (34-7 at the Georgia Dome), but it’s a tough schedule and that defense has a lot of major questions going into the season. They’ll still make the playoffs, but won’t get a bye like 2012, though they will get back to the NFC Championship only to lose to the Niners again. Them’s the breaks, guys!