Approximately 48 hours from right now, we'll know whether or not the Vikings were victorious in their season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. I've exchanged some questions with Dave the Falconer, who runs SBNation's outstanding Falcons blog, The Falcoholic. You can see my responses to Dave's questions here, and here are the questions that I posed to Dave.
1) So. . .anything interesting or exciting happen in Atlanta this off-season?
Oh, you must mean the little matter of the Michael Vick arrest. Or maybe defensive tackle Jon Babineaux killing his girlfriend's dog. Perhaps you mean the coach who was fired for saying he wanted another job? Or maybe the new coach who is actually a robot? Could it be the Rod Coleman boating accident which could keep him out for the first four weeks? Might your interest lie in the way our most promising young quarterback is now out for the season, leaving us with former insurance salesman Chris Redman as a backup? No, I know, you mean when Godzilla destroyed the Georgia Dome.
It was the kind of off-season that makes you want to strike yourself blind, I can say that. I'm more than glad it's over.
2) Heading into the season opener, what do you think the Falcons' strengths are and where do you think they're vulnerable?
The Falcons have a lot of strength up front on the defensive side of the ball. The linebacking corps is one of the league's best, and the defensive line looks promising with quarterback killers John Abraham and rookie Jamaal Anderson. I also have to like our running game, even though Warrick Dunn is older and coming off of a fairly major injury. The offensive line looks to be about as good as it has been the last few years, when it was helping the Falcons be in the upper echelon of the rushing numbers season after season. I also think the new coaching staff is much more competent than Jim Mora Jr.'s.
That being said, we're weak everywhere else. Harrington and the passing game are average options with a lot to prove, so I'm not ready to write them off yet. Anytime you employ perennial Pro Bowl Pass Dropper Roddy White as your second receiver, you're conceding that your receiving corps isn't all that great. Harrington could have a big year, but I'm not holding my breath just yet. The secondary is also pretty awful. Lewis Sanders was barely a nickel back for the Texans last year and he's starting for us, and DeAngelo Hall is vastly overrated. Lawyer Milloy is also very old.
I'm completely unsure of special teams. Our kicker is Matt Prater, who had never even come close to sniffing a kicking job anywhere else. On top of that, our new kick returner is the talented but unproven Adam Jennings. That could really go either way.
3) What's the word on Alge Crumpler and Rod Coleman? I've read reports indicating that they might have to sit out Sunday's game.
As far as I know, Crumpler will suit up for Sunday's game. He's missed a lot of practices and has a lot of nagging problems, but you'd probably have to kill him to keep him off the field. I'd give him a 75% plus chance to play.
Coleman's a different story. Jon Babineaux will be getting the start in his place, as it now looks like he could be out for the first four games of the season. Babineaux is solid on both running and passing downs, so I don't expect us to see an enormous dropoff. Coleman's still obviously the better player, though.
4) What's your impression of new head coach Bobby Petrino, particularly in light of everything he's had to deal with since taking the job?
I like him. The only emotion he's capable of showing is anger, but he seems completely unfazed by everything that's happened. Like all good coaches he's focused solely on getting the team ready for the season. That was definitely a tricky task with all the attention (and PETA jackasses--err, members) swirling around Atlanta this summer, but he's done it. My only major quibble is with some of his personnel moves. Artose Pinner is, as you know, nothing special, but he's still going to take the third running back job over rookie Jason Snelling. Snelling seemed to have a lot of promise in the preseason and I'm still confused as to why he's sitting on the practice squad. He seems to generally prefer veterans, which I don't always agree with. But in general, he looks like he could be a very good fit for us.
5) What are your realistic expectations for the 2007 Atlanta Falcons?
Realistic? Probably a 7-9 or 8-8 season with a lot of close losses. They'll be better than they were last year, but I'm not sure the record is going to reflect it. Far be it from me to call out esteemed Red Sox fan Bill Simmons, but even I don't think this team has the necessary weaponry to put up 10 or 11 wins this season. This is a squad with quite a bit of potential, so if they deliver quickly enough this could be a far more competitive season than I think. Realistically, though, I have to go with the lower totals.
Boom goes the dynamite!
Thanks again to Dave for taking the time out to answer these questions, and be sure to check out The Falcoholic for all your Falcons' needs leading up to Sunday's opener. Another site to check out is the Falcons' site on AOL Fanhouse, who I also answered questions for this morning.
Less than 48 hours left. . .get excited, people!