Here we are.
After an eight-part lead-up that featured position breakdowns of the secondary, linebackers, defensive line, special teams, offensive line, pass catchers, running backs, and quarterbacks, we’ve arrived at the final piece. Below are several predictions that, frankly, are very likely to go wrong, but alas, we are. Let’s go.
Fantasy Football Predictions
These are (probably, at least) the flimsiest of the predictions, simply because they are an attempt to pin number values on player stats. Alas, here’s a look my offensive/fantasy projections.
- Matt Ryan – 4,650 yards, 35 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, #6 overall QB – I think Matt Ryan doesn’t make another “leap” this season, but instead reaffirms his established level from 2012. This is a slight dip in yards with 2 more touchdowns and a slight cut in interceptions. All the weapons are back, and Steven Jackson should, if anything, help Ryan versus hurting him in the absence of the hands-less Michael Turner.
- Steven Jackson – 1,150 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns, #9 overall RB - Speaking of Jackson, I love this guy. I went on and on in the running back preview to this degree, but he’ll be great in the red zone, great in the passing game, and a general upgrade. This may be the only year that the Falcons get from Jackson at this level, but he’ll be great.
- Roddy White – 100 catches, 1,200 yards, 9 touchdowns, #6 overall WR - Amid all of the love for Julio Jones… Roddy White is still going to be the better fantasy player. He’ll lead the team in targets, be more consistent than Jones, and finish with another “ho-hum” top-10 season.
- Julio Jones – 80 catches, 1,150 yards, 9 touchdowns, #8 overall WR – Even after that opinion on Jones vs. White, I still love Jones. He’s one of the most gifted receivers in the league and is the better deep threat. If he stays healthy and plays all 16 games, he could make me look foolish here.
- Tony Gonzalez – 75 catches, 800 yards, 6 touchdowns, #5 overall TE - Last year, Gonzalez went for 93/930/8 so this would be a slight dip, but that comes with being 37 years old at the same time as being the 3rd option. Tony is what we all know him to be: a great route-runner, ultra-reliable with great hands, and a big-time red zone option. Par for the course.
Well, I tricked you here. We’re coming back Thursday morning with a “quick hits” NFL preview that will feature the entire league standings, as well as playoff predictions and a Super Bowl pick. Stay tuned.
5 Predictions that may or may not stick
- Desmond Trufant supplants Asante Samuel as the team’s “number 1″ cornerback – This isn’t outlandish considering Trufant’s status as a 1st-rounder, but he has looked fantastic in camp and the preseason at times, and by the end of the year, the buzz will be even louder.
- Osi Umenyiora goes for double-digit sacks – This is a bit more aggressive. The last time that Umenyiora went for 10+ sacks was 2010, but he looks to be rejuvenated in a Falcons uniform. That mojo coupled with more plays on the field (they’ll need him) should give him every opportunity to wreak havoc.
- Jeremy Trueblood is starting at right tackle by Week 4 - We touched on Trueblood’s signing earlier in the day, but this more of an indictment on Lamar Holmes than anything else. I’ve just not seen an effective, starting tackle in Holmes thus far, and Trueblood was signed for a reason.
- We will see Dominique Davis for at least a half of playing time – I’m not wishing ill on Matt Ryan at all. In fact, I’ve lauded him more than just about anyone. However, with this offensive line, he’s going to take some shots, and there is a sinking feeling in me that we’ll see more of Davis than anyone wants to see.
- Robert Alford will be the kick and punt returner by the end of the season – I won’t tell you that I know everything about Robert Alford as a cornerback, but I do know this. The Falcons drafted Alford in the second round because he also doubles as a return man, and the team has been pedestrian (at best) in the return game since the prime of Eric Weems. We’ll see Alford in both roles sooner rather than later.
- Offensive MVP – Matt Ryan – It just has to be. The offense is going to be great, but Ryan is the engine.
- Defensive MVP – Jonathan Babineaux – In a see of love for Umenyiora, Weatherspoon, and William Moore, I’m the lone ranger here, but I’m all-in. Babineaux makes a Pro Bowl push with a sack total in the 6-8 range while plugging holes on a weekly basis.
- Breakout Player - Desmond Trufant – I’m sticking with my shot above about Trufant passing Samuel, and going one step further. By the end of the year, he’ll be playing at a Pro Bowl level, and it’ll be the first time in a long time that Falcons fans will be fully comfortable with one side of the field.
After everything, I’m going strong. I believe the Falcons will win the NFC South, thanks in large part to the wretched New Orleans Saints defense, and I believe the team will have home-field advantage during the Divisional round. Matt Ryan will generate MVP buzz, and the team will finish with another great record. 12-4.
That will wrap up the massive 9-part preview. Be sure to go back and scour the many, many words written here (links above), and also stay tuned for our first game preview as the Falcons travel to New Orleans on Sunday for Week 1. Let’s get it going.