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So, you're looking for a non-playoff team that's going to jump into the playoffs.

I'll do you one better.

I'll give you a non-playoff team that's going to go all the way to the NFC Championship game, barring a major injury.

The Atlanta Falcons.

I appreciate that I'm not exactly sticking my neck out by saying the Falcons will make the playoffs this year. After all, it's not as if they went 3-13 and just overhauled their entire offensive line. No, the Falcons went 9-7 last year, which would have put them in the playoffs many years. In fact, they had the identical record as most prognosticators' preseason darlings, the Jets. It's just that 9-7 wasn't good enough in the NFC in a year when the Cowboys, Eagles, Saints, Cardinals, Vikings and Packers all won 11 or more.

This is the year that Matt Ryan becomes an elite quarterback. He may not be the next Peyton Manning, but he will probably get a heck of a lot closer than most current quarterbacks, including the other progrosticators' darling, the Jets' Mark Sanchez. (Sorry for picking on the Jets, particularly as they've been my favorite team for 40 years, but they don't warrant the hype their getting. Last time I looked, the only reason they made the playoffs last year was because the Colts and Bengals laid down for them after both had clinched playoff spots.)

If the Michael Turner of 2008 shows up, instead of the overworked and injured 2009 version, and if Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez keep doing what they do, that's an offense you can easily picture in the Super Bowl.

The defense, well, let's just say it needs some improvement to get back to where it was in 2008. Curtis Lofton is already one of the best linebackers in the league. Picking up Dunta Robinson as a free agent may itself be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting home. He hasn't looked the same since his spectacular rookie season, but even if he never approaches that level again, he's a significant upgrade at corner.

The Falcons aren't going to win 14 games this season. But 10 or 11? Absolutely.

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