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  1. "One note, Mack has been missing practices this week because of a fibula injury, and that is a big concern. However, odds are the leader of the o-line, unless the injury is severe, will not miss this game. " WTF? The Road to the Super Bowl Always Starts in the Trenches January 30, 2017 2:01 PM By Tony Schiavone Filed Under: Alex Mack, Andy Levitre, Atlanta Falcons, Brotherhood, cam newton, Carolina Panthers, Chris Chester, Devonta Freeman, Jake Matthews, Julio Jones, Kyle Shanahan, matt ryan, Mohamed Sanu, new england patriots, Ryan Schraeder, Super Bowl 51, Tevin Coleman Odd, isn’t it? When you look at the most successful teams in football (both NFL and major college), that the one common denominator is the play of the offensive line. If the Falcons win Super Bowl LI, we will sing the praises of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman and more, as well we should. But the heroes will still be the guys on the offensive line. Just ask the aforementioned “skilled players” since they are the ones who touch the ball! The stat that hits you squarely between the eyes is one reported recently by David Newton of ESPN. Newton reports that RT Ryan Schraeder and RG Chris Chester have played every down this season. LT Jake Matthews has played 95 percent of the time. Center Alex Mack and LG Andy Levitre have each played 98 percent of the snaps taken. That is staggering. And that is a recipe for success. Newton reports that last season, the Carolina Panthers o-line was pretty much intact all season, with only two of five linemen missing a total of four starts. And what did the Panthers do last season? Made it all the way to the BIG GAME, of course. One note, Mack has been missing practices this week because of a fibula injury, and that is a big concern. However, odds are the leader of the o-line, unless the injury is severe, will not miss this game. On Sunday, the five who make up the Falcons offensive line will face a great challenge. First of all, this is the BIG GAME, and that is a challenge in and of itself. Players who have not been here before will notice how different this week is. Distractions? It’s an over-used term in pro sports, but yes, there are plenty more distractions. However, when all the pre-game hype, talk and practices are done, Sunday will become just another football game. Nothing different from how it is played in the regular season, EXCEPT the o-line will be facing one of the best defenses in football. The Patriots rank 8th in the NFL in Total Defense, 12th in passing defense and 3rd in rushing defense. Don’t roll your eyes at this. Numbers mean something. Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has already been quoted as saying the New England defense is the “best we have seen all year.” In the Super Bowl one year ago, the Panthers’ offense had basically an injury-free offensive line. But they were stopped by a solid, overwhelming Denver Broncos defense. As we have noted, there are a lot of similarities between the Falcons and Panthers heading into Sunday’s game. However, I do think Ryan is a better quarterback than Cam Newton. (He obviously has better taste in post-game attire!) Also, I feel the Falcons have a much better defense than Carolina had one year ago. Is this the formula for a Super Bowl LI win? Could be. But I do challenge you to do this: On a few plays this Sunday, between the endless food and drink, watch the Falcons’ offensive line. Notice if they are quick enough to cover the stunts of the Patriots’ defensive line. See if they give Ryan plenty of time. Also, notice if they open holes for Freeman and Coleman. Don’t wait for the endless replays to show you. Watch it as it happens. It will be the barometer for who will win the game. More times than not, the team that blocks the best, wins the most. It’s all part of the “brotherhood.” Tony Schiavone Tony Schiavone is Sports Writer and Baseball Analyst for 92-9 The Game. Before that, he spent 13 years as the Sports Director in radio here in Atlanta. He can be heard on the Georgia Bulldogs Football Network handling various pre-game interviews. ... More from Tony Schiavone
  2. http://ferrall.radio.cbssports.com/2014/09/11/desmond-trufant-chip-on-our-shoulder-a-lot-to-prove/?utm_content=buffercf6ad&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer Its audio at the link if you want to hear the interview
  3. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/features/writers/expert/picks/straight-up/19
  4. Jones flashed dominance on Sunday in Kanas City. (Getty Images) You might already know this, but I'm on board the Julio Jones bandwagon this year. Big-time. And it's a pretty good bandwagon to be on. Hop aboard and you can join awesome people like, me, our fantasy football guys, and Matt Ryan. Ryan joined "The Jungle" with Jim Rome on Tuesday. When asked by Rome if Jones can be "Megatron good" Ryan replied Jones is "capable as being as good as" any wideout in the NFL. "Yeah I think he's physically capable of being as good as anyone in this league," Ryan said. "You mention Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Those are two big, physical guys. And [Julio] has a way to go to get to where they're at. But as far as physical skill goes, he has everything you want from a wide receiver." That's a bold statement, but not that bold. There are plenty of folks (again, myself included) who believe Jones will end up looking like a top-five wideout by the end of 2012. He's gotten off to a great start, scoring two touchdowns for the Falcons in their win over the Chiefs on Sunday, and he's likely to keep seeing a pile of targets as Atlanta continues to run its high-octane offense. But is he the new No.-1 wideout for Atlanta? Ryan wouldn't go so far as to say that Julio's surpassed Roddy White in the Falcons hierarchy, and he made sure to offer a diplomatic answer to Rome's question. Ryan did make a point to call Julio a No. 1 wideout. "I don't know," Ryan said. "Roddy is still -- you know four Pro Bowls in a row for him -- he's still a go-to guy, a guy capable of making plays at any time. I think in our offense we really have three No. 1's. We have a guy in Julio Jones who's a No. 1, Roddy White who you mentioned is a No. 1 and Tony Gonzalez, for the bulk of his career, was a No. 1 in his offense. So we've got three guys who I think are legitimate No. 1's." That's some solid use of compliments by Ryan, but the truth is that Julio's the "guy" in Atlanta now. That's not a knock on White -- who's also said that Jones is going to explode this year -- but more of an indication about what kind of wideout Jones truly is. He's one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL, he can make just about any catch thanks to his freakish combo of hands/leaping ability/speed, and he can turn short catches into long gains about as well as anyone in the league. So, no, it's not a stretch to say that Jones can be as good as Johnson or Fitzgerald, and that's something that could seem obvious by the end of the year.
  5. http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/19719174/strategy-and-personnel With the release of Lofa Tatupu, the Falcons are getting second-year man Akeem Dent ready to start at middle linebacker. Dent, who was selected in the third round of last year's NFL draft, will get his chance to replace Curtis Lofton, the team's top tackler last season with 159. Lofton signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. The Falcons also signed 13-year veteran Mike Peterson to help mentor Dent. PLAYER NOTES --LB Lofa Tatupu, who had received a $600,000 signing bonus, was released after he suffered an season-ending pectoral injury away from the team's facilities. --RG Vince Manuwai, who received a $65,000 signing bonus, was released after just five practices in what was called a "football decision." --CB Brent Grimes, who's set to play under the franchise tag at $10.281 million, said his long-term status won't be a distraction for him this season. --DT Peria Jerry, a former first-round pick, is working with the first-team defense with Corey Peters out with a foot injury. --WR Harry Douglas, who returned punts as a rookie in 2008, appears to be the early front-runner to win the job vacated by Eric Weems, who signed with Chicago in free agency. BATTLE OF THE WEEK Right guard Garrett Reynolds and rookie Peter Konz appear to be rising to the top at right guard. Also, with the release of Manuwai, Mike Johnson has taken a step closer to fulfilling his promise as a third-round draft pick. Reynolds started the Falcons' first seven games last season, before giving way to Joe Hawley. Reynolds (6-7, 310 pounds) said he spent his offseason working on technique and fundamentals. With a new offensive coordinator in Dirk Koetter and offensive line coach in Pat Hill, Reynolds has a clean slate. Management has made it clear that there is open competition along the offensive line for the best five players to protect quarterback Matt Ryan. The team is high on Konz, whom they were surprised when he slipped to the 55th spot in the draft. He's considered a more athletic option. PLAYER OF THE WEEK Cornerback Dunta Robinson has embraced change and thrived in the first week of camp. Early in camp, new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is basically playing musical chairs with the cornerbacks flopping them from the right and left side. Also, Robinson is moving down inside to play slot receivers as the team's nickel back. Robinson blitzed from the nickel back position early in his career. He had three sacks in 2004 and one in 2005. When blitzing off the edge as a nickel back, Robinson said the element of surprise is key. "It's kind of like a cat and mouse game," Robinson said. ROOKIE REPORT Offensive lineman Lamar Holmes, the team's third-round pick, was cleared to begin practice just in time for training camp. Holmes said he suffered a broken foot while running just weeks after being drafted. "I thought I was doing the right thing," Holmes said. "I tried to finish the end of my run strong, and I felt something in my foot, and that's what it was." Holmes started out practicing with the third unit at left tackle behind Sam Baker and Will Svitek. MEDICAL WATCH --LT Lamar Holmes was medically cleared for practice. He suffered a foot injury after the draft and did not participate in OTAS or minicamp. --SLB Stephen Nicholas was medically cleared for practice. He suffered a big toe injury that required surgery. --DT Corey Peters (foot) has not been medially cleared to practice. He will be re-examined in two weeks. --RB Robbie Frey suffered a foot injury in the second practice. He's expected to miss a few days of practice and could return by Tuesday or Wednesday.
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