The Falcoholic is the SB Nation Atlanta Falcons blog, and the head dude in charge is Dave Choate, International Man of Mystery, SB Nation mensch, and expert on all things Atlanta Falcons. So it would stand to reason, then, that we hit him up with five good questions about the Falcons and the upcoming game. Well, mediocre questions, but really good answers. He asked me some good questions, and I gave some mediocre answers, which you can find over at the Falcoholic. Away we go...
So what's the deal in Atlanta? 13-3 in 2012, 4-12 last year with essentially the same guys. Well, at least the key guys, for the most part. No one was really expecting much this year, but you're now 2-1, with big wins against the Saints at home in week one and an absolute pantsing of the Bucs on national TV. But there was also an ugly loss to a good Cincinnati team, too. Are the Falcons a good team, a Jekyll and Hyde team, was 2013 an anomaly, or is it something in between?
The Falcons are a good team with some fairly major flaws, I think. It's fair to note that Julio Jones and Roddy White were missing for large chunks of last year, starting left tackle Sam Baker went down and the Falcons were without a replacement, the ground game was worse than useless and their defense was absolutely godawful throughout. That adds up to 4-12 in a hurry, even if your quarterback is Matt Ryan.
This year most everyone's healthy, for starters, and the addition of Devin Hester and a better offensive line up front has made a huge difference for the offense. The defense isn't good by any stretch of the imagination, but it looks like they may be figuring out how to rotate guys through their front seven and at least be competitive out there.
The lack of a quality pass rush hurts, and the Falcons can still ill afford any injuries. They're also demonstrably better indoors and at home. I do think, though, that the Bengals game was about being exposed as a good but not great team by one of the best home teams in football. I've got them pegged at 9-7 this season, and I think their offense will be enough to carry them past those defensive question marks most weeks.
Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Julio Jones have been a fantastic QB-WR team since the Falcons moved up in the draft to get Jones in 2011...when Jones and White are healthy. Jones only played five games last year, and White missed the Bucs game and is questionable this week. Jones has been money so far in 2014, so aside from him, are there any other WR's the Vikings DB's need to worry about if White is limited or unable to go?
You need to be cognizant of Harry Douglas and Devin Hester. I know the mention of Hester is probably jarring for Vikings fans, who saw him do nothing as a receiver in Chicago for years, but he looks rejuvenated in Atlanta. He burned the Saints for 97 yards in the first week and was a force to be reckoned with against the hapless Buccaneers last week. His deep speed makes him some you have to account for.
Douglas is a different story, and he's really more of a possession receiver at this stage of his career. The Falcons have been turning to him when they need a tough catch over the middle or a quick hitter to the sideline, and to his credit, Douglas has done a nice job of corraling those. He's probably not going to burn you deep, yet he'll still be a factor for this Falcons team assuming he can go. The team's ability to throw four wide receivers on the field at a time is a problem for most defenses.
Lastly, look for out for Levine Toilolo in the red zone. He hasn't done much thus far in 2014, but a 6'8" tight end always has the potential to be dangerous.
What were the overall feelings of the fan base when the Falcons went and signed Devin Hester as a free agent in the off-season? And for those that liked the signing, are you gleefully rubbing it in the face of the fans that didn't like it? Also, Congress should pass a law outlawing opposing teams from kicking it to Hester. Discuss.
Ah, I see I spoke too soon on Hester. I was happy to have the guy as a returner, but I figured he'd be a fairly minor player on offense. Thus far, he's blown those expectations out of the water, and the true believers are not shy about pointing that out to the rest of us. I say good for them.
Hester's just been so dynamic thus far. He ran in a 20 yard reverse against the Bucs, he's catching the ball well and he already took a punt returner to the house. Dangerous as hell, is what he is.
If Congress isn't going to look out for the safety of our nation's special teams units, who will? WHO WILL THINK OF THE 300 POUND CHILDREN?!
How has the defense adjusted to the loss of Sean Weatherspoon? Give me the name of a guy on the Falcons defense you need to be on the look out for if you are a Vikings fan that isn't all too familiar with the Falcons, and how would you attack them if you were Norv Turner, Vikings OC?
The guy you really want to watch out for is probably Robert Alford. Desmond Trufant gets a lot of deserved press as one of the top young cornerbacks in the NFL, but Alford has been every bit as good to start the season, and he's perfectly capable of keeping up with players as dynamic as Cordarelle Patterson, even if that dude scares the hell out of me.
If I'm Norv Turner, I get the ball to Patterson out of the backfield and on short routes and screens, always with an eye on springing him for a big gain. The Falcons seem to be making some strides on defense but still aren't good at handling fast, shifty players in space, and they don't come much more athletic than Patterson. If you can run the football even semi-effectively, you'll keep Mike Nolan from dialing up a ton of pressure that will probably get to Bridgewater, given the state of your offensive line, so I'd hope Asiata and McKinnon can get that done. But yeah, there's little question Patterson's the key for the Vikings.
Okay, give me a prediction. Are the Dr. Jekyll Falcons going to show up, or the they going to drink some potion and turn into this unstoppable monster?
I don't think they'll be quite to unstoppable monster, but I have them winning this one by at least a touchdown, just by virtue of the strength of the offense and the numerous challenges/injuries facing this young, promising Vikings team. I'll say 27-17, Atlanta.
Thanks to Dave for some great insight into the upcoming game. Good luck to the Falcons for the rest of their season...starting as soon as the game clock at TCF Bank Stadium hits 0:00.