In this series of posts...Wait, this isn't one of those...Crap.
Hey guys, I'm taking a one week break from the debate posts to post my mid-season review of our beloved Falcons. Right now, we're sitting at 6-2 and have the NFC South lead all to ourselves. It feels great, doesn't it?
There are several reasons as to why this team has suddenly prospered from a 'meh' 9-7 team to a playoff contending 6-2, but if you want to hear them, follow me after the jump!
They are our Atlanta Falcons. They have six wins compared to two losses. They lead the NFC South, and they are tied for the best record in the NFL. Let that soak in your cranium for a few minutes.
There have been rumblings around the media that the Falcons could be the best team in the NFC. Honestly, when was the last time the Falcons were ever mentioned in the same sentence as the best NFC teams? 2004, maybe? However long ago it was, it was certainly a long time ago.
Without getting into too much detail, I'll go over the three major facets of our team plus a few minor ones to keep things interesting.
Offense: Naturally, the offense starts and stops with the QB position, which is thankfully held down by 3rd year man Matt Ryan. We all know this already. Matty's on pace to have about 3900 yards and could very easily eclipse the 4000 yard mark for the first time in his career if the Panthers have anything to say about it.
Turner continues to be a stud on the ground, and he is complemented nicely by Thundering Bull Snelling. Turner isn't much of a pass catcher out of the backfield (which is a damn shame, let me tell you.) but his counterpart catches the ball well, and that allows us to have some versatility.
The receivers are, for what it's worth, a generic bunch. It just so happens that Superman aka Roddy White graced our WR corps with his presence this year, and he's been lights out. The man has made clutch catch after clutch catch. Jenkins's return has opened up the offense a bit more and has allowed more running room for the RBs, and Harry Douglas is still working on figuring out how to undo his training wheels. Tony Gonzalez needs no explanation. He does what he does and he does a fantastic job.
The O-Line, as usual, is just good enough for what we need them to do. Sometimes they're great, sometimes they're awful. Sam Baker, our LT, has been a liability and has caused several mental breakdowns among the fans thanks to his own mental breakdowns. He has improved in recent weeks, so let's hope he can keep improving. The Ravens will be tough for our line.
Offense Grade: B. Could be better, could be much worse.
Bonus Offense Grade, Mike Mularkey Edition: D----. Mularkey earned a D-minus-minus-minus-minus because he has started to turn the corner a bit in the past two weeks, though he's still going to have to work hard if he wants to pass.
Defense: The defense has been somewhat enigmatic again this year. Just last week, it seemed like the D rekindled its inner 2009 and refused to get off the field on third downs. However, when the unit is clicking, it is a strong defense.
The Defense has been very opportunistic. I believe it has been pointed out several times that every position on the Falcons defense has an interception. Honestly, I wonder if that has ever been done before. It's impressive, to say the least.
It starts with the guys up front. Young faces Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, and Kroy Biermann have all shown they're capable of playing at a high level in the NFL alongside savvy veterans John Abraham and Jon Babineaux. They've been generating good pressure and have been fantastic against the run to this point. The Ravens are going to test their mettle, that's for sure.
The linebacking corps is a great group of guys lead by Da Police, Curtis Lofton. They're a tough group of guys that unfortunately has been without first round pick Sean Weatherspoon for most of the year. Weatherspoon was making a positive impact before injury sidelined him several weeks ago. The LB pass coverage has been a bit suspect, but it's been decent enough to get us by.
The defensive backs have been decent this year. New addition Dunta Robinson has done a pretty good job of holding his side of the field down, and Brent Grimes continues to improve with age. Safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud are a hard-hitting duo who are able to catch the ball and play solid defense. They're not the most talented bunch, but they do well enough for us.
Defense Grade: B-. They've been a bit lackluster in recent weeks, but they're still better than they were last year.
Bonus Defense Grade, Brian Van Gorder Edition: F for Stop Blitzing Clogged Gaps. But seriously, stop doing that.
Special Teams: Oh boy, here's where I get to grill some players. Special teams nearly lost the game for us last week after allowing one KRTD and another near KRTD that was mercifully saved by Brent Grimes.
First, the good news. Matt Bryant, our kicker, has been fantastic this season. He's been clutch, he's been ice cold, you name it. He's been great. Aside from him and long snapper Joe Zelenka, there hasn't been much to be happy about on special teams.
Michael Koenen, normally a great sky punter, has been meh this season. Perhaps it's because our offense has stalled out around the 50 too many times, but his punting just hasn't been as good. His kickoffs have done fairly well, though I wish he'd just boot them all through the endzone.
The coverage units have been awful. I believe punt coverage has been alright, but kickoff coverage has been abysmal. Last week exposed a very ugly weakness for us on special teams. Here's to hoping we get it fixed sooner rather than later.
ST Grade: D. Only because Matt Bryant is the man.
Bonus ST Grade, The Coverage Coach Who Needs To Be Fired Edition: Sacked. I demand that he be sacked and that the person who sacked him should also be sacked.
Overall I'd give this team a B-. The O has been solid, the D has been relatively solid, but ST has really weighed this team down.
Honestly, 6-2 was about as good as I could've realistically expected at the halfway point, but here we are, standing tall on top of the NFCS. How do you all feel about the Falcons to this point in the season? Could our team pull off 6-2 in the second half of the season? Share your mid-season thoughts here, and I look forward to discussing this with you all!