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Chris’ Penn: Atlanta Falcons poised to capture NFC South crown

Question marks surround the Atlanta Falcons offensive line, but that shouldn't stop them from claiming the NFC South crown for the second consecutive year.

Question marks surround the Atlanta Falcons offensive line, but that shouldn’t stop them from claiming the NFC South crown for the second consecutive year.

Welcome to our inaugural edition of Chris’ Penn, our WCS-exclusive NFC South mailbag feature! The poor sack is overflowing, so let’s jump right in with the questions.

From John P.

Considering the glaring weaknesses on the O-line, D-line, and D secondary of the Atlanta Falcons, have you reconsidered your preseason prognostication of Falcons success?

I had predicted the Falcons would go 12-4 before the preseason began. Would I change that now? Probably — to 11-5.

The only game for which I would change my prediction would be the 49ers game. San Francisco has looked like they have been playing the regular season.

That said, the game is near the end of the season and give the Falcons plenty of time to improve. I can’t see the offensive line and secondary not improving as the year progresses. The defensive line, however, is another story. If we don’t see a pass rush develop out of it within the first half of the season, we probably won’t. It’s not a matter of high-talent players and draft picks needing time to develop, it is just a lack of talent all together.

From James D.

After watching the Titans vs. Falcons game, do you see the secondary being a problem for the Falcons this year?

While rookie corners Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have taken their fair share of rookie woes, each game they have made several good plays. Early in the year, they are going to struggle, especially against elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees in Week 1. By the third or fourth quarter of the season, I think we will see a lot of improvement.

Alford and Trufant have an awesome mentor in Asante Samuel and go up against two of the best receivers in the NFL daily in practice. The Falcons also have one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. I like what I’ve seen out of the young linebackers on this team and a couple of line players. If they can generate any kind of pass rush to help out the secondary, by midseason we may never even notice that we have two rookies in the secondary.

The Atlanta Falcons offensive line has been a hot topic this preseason and will remain so until they can put all the doubts to rest.

From Robert R.

Yeah, yeah, I know, “preseason, schmeseason,” but has there been any player, unit or team who has drastically changed your opinion with the way they played this preseason — good or bad? 

A few, yes.

Firstly, the entire Carolina Panthers offense. I expected more out of them this preseason. I know it’s been said that head coach Ron Rivera doesn’t implement his “real” game plans in preseason, but they looked abysmal. Conversely, the front seven appeared to play up to their hype.

Secondly, the Atlanta Falcons linebackers. I’ve said all offseason that linebacker was their weakest position. Their undrafted free agents, Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, were impressive. I could see both of these players becoming starters by the end of the season — sooner, if injury befalls a starter.

Finally, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. He played poorly overall in the preseason. Perhaps Freeman struggled because running back Doug Martin only carries the ball three times this preseason. Does Martin really make Freeman look better? I think the Buccaneers may be ready to unleash Martin and this could very well become his team, not Freeman’s.

Bear in mind, too, that despite the fact Freeman is in a contract year, the Bucs drafted a quarterback with a high pick. That’s never a good sign for a starter.

Could the Buccaneers be ready to hand the offensive workload to Doug Martin? He has the talent to handle it.

From John P.

The New Orleans Saints lost LB Will Smith from a defense that was among the worst in the league last year. Even with the return of head coach Sean Payton, why should we think they will be any better this year than last year?

While I don’t think they will be good by any means, I do expect them to be better. It’s hard not to improve on one of the worse defenses in the history of the league. They have a few starters on the defensive front seven out with injury right now, so I expect this defensive unit to have a lot of early woes.

New Orleans has switched to the 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but they don’t have the pieces for it, especially after the injuries.  The secondary should be visibly better, but with their linebacking corps the most suspect unit in the NFC South, I’d have to put this defense in the bottom quarter of the league.

I will continue to ridicule their decision to take safety Kenny Vaccaro over outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the 2013 draft until Jarvis Jones proves to be a bust.

From Jethro in Hattiesburg

Hey, Mailbag Meister, this isn’t a gambling question, although it will look like one at first glance.

There is an advanced computer algorithm I follow that picks games both straight up and against the spread. A couple of interesting anomalies cropped up in the NFC South games this week.

The algorithm favors the New York Jets straight up to win at home against Tampa Bay, yet it picks the Buccaneers to not only win but also cover the spread (-3).

Likewise, it predicts Atlanta to win straight up on the road against New Orleans, yet it picks New Orleans to win and cover the spread (-3).

Now obviously, Vegas considers these games virtual coin flips. I think in this case, that means the smart pick is the home team. What do you think?

Also, how do these numbers square with what you see from these teams? In other words, do you think the Bucs are really about bad as the Jets and that the Saints are going to give the Falcons a run for their money this year?

The Buccaneers visiting the Jets is a no-brainer in my ledger. The Jets are in competition with the Oakland Raiders for the “Clowning for Clowney” contest this season. The Jaguars are probably not far behind. There isn’t a quarterback on this team with whom I would take the under at 2.5 interceptions, especially considering the Bucs’ secondary boasts New York’s former star corner Darrelle Revis; nor is there a receiver I think can even get a catch on Revis, much less a running back who can get by rookie stand-out linebacker Lavonte David.

I’m not encouraging gambling, but you can’t bet on the Jets this game and not feel like you threw away your hard-earned money.

Now, the Falcons/Saints game is a different story.

I picked the Saints to win this one simply because they are the home team. Neither defense will be ready for the opposing offenses. The Saints, as of late, beaten the Falcons consistently. I think the Falcons defense will almost certainly be better by the latter part of the year, and the offenses to be similar in potency. The Falcons play most of their tough games at home, where they have an astounding record under Matt Ryan.

That being said, I don’t think the Saints will be able to overcome the Falcons for the division title this season.

Reminder

To ensure your questions or comments are included in next week’s edition of “Chris’ Penn,” be sure to submit them no later than midnight on Monday, September 9th to [email protected]. Submissions may be edited for length or clarity.

835 comments
JVince 11
JVince 11

Whats this whole thing Diana Nyad?

$50 Fiddy 50$
$50 Fiddy 50$

How long does it usually take Rourke to post an article? I am ready to lose my writers virginity up in here!!!

robertj72
robertj72

Interesting snippet from Easterbrook:

"Sequester Will Sock A Vulnerable Economy" -- Washington Post banner headline on the midwinter day the sequester started. "The sequester is already hurting our economy," President Barack Obama said a few days later. Since these statements, the GDP is up about 3 percent, the stock market is up about 5 percent, unemployment is down half a percent and the housing market has become so strong there is talk of a new bubble. Three months into the sequester, American household net worth hit an all-time high.

Unnamed "experts" predicted that the sequester "will cost 700,000 jobs. Instead about 1 million new jobs have been added.

natesweet
natesweet moderator

You guys have not learned by now? SDL has a magic hearing aid that will summon him here as soon as his name is mentioned.

AndrewLeT
AndrewLeT

I swear to god SDL works for the NSA with how quickly he responds after a random mention of his name. 

$50 Fiddy 50$
$50 Fiddy 50$

It is a Falcon Saint Rivalry article so it needs to be by SAT for sure. I am not being impatient just trying to understand the way things work

natesweet
natesweet moderator

@50CaliberFalcon Normally he is quite expedient but your virginous stature probably has him taking his time so as not to scare you off.

robertj72
robertj72

@50CaliberFalcon depends on how relevant it is...if it is the Denver-Balt preview it will be 2 days. If it is about Steven Jacksons career he will tell you next week and it will drop somewhere around Christmas

Childerz...
Childerz...

@The Real CJammin Sadly... his crazy shit is less crazy than the current fuckwads who are running this country... I'd proudly live on that island.