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One Advantage Worth Pondering: This Is A Deep Falcons Team

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ATLANTA - OCTOBER 03:  Curtis Lofton #50 of the Atlanta Falcons intercepts this pass intended for Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers at Georgia Dome on October 3 2010 in Atlanta Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA - OCTOBER 03: Curtis Lofton #50 of the Atlanta Falcons intercepts this pass intended for Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers at Georgia Dome on October 3 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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I know, merely mentioning the playoffs gets your collective hackles up. I'm not jinxing us. Every mention of the playoffs from here on out will be couched in hypothetical terms.

Ahem.

If the Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs, they have one advantage shared by only a handful of teams in the NFL today: Excellent depth. That's a distinction that allows them to absorb injuries, grind out long seasons and keep guys fresh in intense playoff games. There's a legitimate case to be made that the Falcons don't have the top-flight talent everywhere to contend for a championship, or that the coaching staff is hamstringing that talent's ability. What you can't argue with is the depth.

In many ways, it reminds me of the Patriots of the early 2000's, or the Packers of today. Someone goes down and you plug in a player who isn't an enormous downgrade, or you're able to maintain a rotation. You don't know how much you need it until you really need it, essentially.

After the jump, I take a look at where the team is deepest and shallowest.

Where The Falcons Are Deepest

Cornerback: I decided to lead off with this one because it's likely to be controversial. Also, none of us would have said this just a month ago.

The Falcons may not have a Revis-type on the roster, but they do have two very capable starters in Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. They also have Chris Owens—who sheds that terrible reputation a little more each week—along with savvy veteran Kelvin Hayden and promising Dominique Franks. They even have a prospect in Darrin Walls, whose athleticism makes him an intriguing possibility as a nickel corner down the line.

Again, nobody outside of Grimes is close to elite. But as the injuries to Optimus and Hayden showed us, Owens and Franks are capable of not embarrassing themselves out there.

Defensive line: Yeah, the whole line.

Think about it: At defensive end, you have John Abraham and Ray Edwards starting. While neither is having the best season of his career, both are at least solid. They're backed up by Kroy Biermann, who is similarly struggling but is a well-rounded end, and Lawrence Sidbury, who shows quite a bit of promise as a pass rusher.

It's better at defensive tackle. Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters are excellent against the run and occasionally flash pass rushing chops when they're given the opportunity to. Peria Jerry is perfectly solid as a backup, and Vance Walker has become a quality piece of the rotation.

While this line seems tragically unable to get to the quarterback at times, there's a lot of talent here. There's also the not-insignificant run-stopping ability.

Linebacker: The jury's still out on Spencer Adkins. Akeem Dent is still learning the ropes. But you'd be hard-pressed to argue that this isn't one of the most talented and deep units on the Falcons.

You have three excellent starters, of course, but look what Mike Peterson has done

Given Dent's potential as a two-to-three down thumper, this could be a deep position for a long time.

Running back: Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. If Mike Mularkey would just play to their strengths a bit more, it would be one of the best in the NFL today.

Where They Are Not As Deep

Wide receiver: With Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas, the Falcons have one elite wide receiver, one potentially elite one and a very good slot man. What they don't really have is a ton of depth.

The jury's still out on Kerry Meier, who has barely been utilized in this offense. Eric Weems is a good option if you need a seven yard catch on a slant, but other than that he's shown little. When the Falcons lost Jones earlier this year, Weems and Meier barely did anything. Whether that's the coaching staff's usage or an indictment of their talent is tough to say. If it's the latter, the Falcons may want to invest in a young receiver come April.

Guys like Kevin Cone might be an answer down the line, but he still need seasoning.

Tight end: I like Michael Palmer as much as the next guy. That said, is he anything more than a capable backup on a quality team? Not really.

The Falcons simply don't have a Plan B in-house if Tony Gonzalez gets hurt or walks away after the season. Palmer is okay as a blocker and can catch a pass when called upon, but again, doesn't seem to have starter upside. Reggie Kelly blocks.

This is another position the Falcons need to invest a draft pick or free agent contract in once the off-season rolls around, assuming they can't lock up Gonzo for another season.

So that's where I stand. Weigh in.