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Which Nfc Teams Are Better Than Us?


Nole9782
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So you think our offensive ans defensive lines will be worse than the team two years ago? Our linebackers will be worse? Michael Turner was better than Steven Jackson? What in the world would make you possibly think that?

Or just you hate the Falcons? Tell me...which parts of the team will be worse?

TE will be worse...OL might break even with the 12 unit...QBs a wash, RB a wash(although people at least THOUGHT Turner was going to turn it up every game as evidenced by teams stacking the box and our play-action working miracles...that defensive thought process is probably done against us)...receiver a wash if Julio can come back at his 13 level, because Roddy is slowing down.

d-line will probably be better, LB a wash(we lost a good Nicholas for a better Worrilow but Spoon has deteriorated...maybe it was playing for a losing team that did that, maybe not...we don't know who our starting LBs will be out of those two so far though), CB is a wash, safeties is a question mark...

even if we were as good as the 12 team, we pulled the luck of the draw on a lot of end of game plays that year...not saying it can't happen again, just that those close games were swinging the other way in the beginning of the year when we were NFL healthy in 13

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Seattle

San Fran

Philly

New Orleans

Green Bay

Chicago

Arizona

New York

Detroit

All very possible and most even likely to be better than us

Detroit has the same exact strengths and weaknesses as they always have and they now lack the depth they once had in the d-line. And they are almost devoid if talent in the back 7.

NYG has lost Linval Joseph and Tuck on the D-line.... They've made upgrades at the corner spots and in the run game with Schwartz and Jennings, who should, at a minimum, be healthier than anyone they had last year..... But they have 0 pass game.

I feel like we are currently in the same tier with N.O, GB, and Arizona. And N.O. has numerous questions to answer about production replacement, and Zona returns an offense that still is unsure about how to put up points--- which nearly negates their D.

Chicago will be what they've always been under Cutler....only with a slightly weaker defense.

The league has had a year to figure out Chip Kelly's offense..... We'll see how Folks handles being "the man" coming into a season

Defensively, we stand to be far better staffed---- no more Peria played 4/5 techniques or shade 1 techniques..... Far less Babs in a 4/5t.

And most importantly, until it otherwise comes to pass, we are healthy this year. We went toe to toe with almost every one short 4 of our best players on offense last season outside of Ryan. Aside from a bad stretch late last season, we, we played a lot if close games..... We're not as far off as our records would suggest

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Detroit has the same exact strengths and weaknesses as they always have and they now lack the depth they once had in the d-line. And they are almost devoid if talent in the back 7.

NYG has lost Linval Joseph and Tuck on the D-line.... They've made upgrades at the corner spots and in the run game with Schwartz and Jennings, who should, at a minimum, be healthier than anyone they had last year..... But they have 0 pass game.

I feel like we are currently in the same tier with N.O, GB, and Arizona. And N.O. has numerous questions to answer about production replacement, and Zona returns an offense that still is unsure about how to put up points--- which nearly negates their D.

Chicago will be what they've always been under Cutler....only with a slightly weaker defense.

The league has had a year to figure out Chip Kelly's offense..... We'll see how Folks handles being "the man" coming into a season

Defensively, we stand to be far better staffed---- no more Peria played 4/5 techniques or shade 1 techniques..... Far less Babs in a 4/5t.

And most importantly, until it otherwise comes to pass, we are healthy this year. We went toe to toe with almost every one short 4 of our best players on offense last season outside of Ryan. Aside from a bad stretch late last season, we, we played a lot if close games..... We're not as far off as our records would suggest

will you please explain to me in more detail how we are on the same tier as New Orleans ? I'm really having a difficult time grasping your thought process on that one .
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will you please explain to me in more detail how we are on the same tier as New Orleans ? I'm really having a difficult time grasping your thought process on that one .

We lost two games to them last year by a total of 10 points. I will go as far as to say that we gave them the opener because Sjax dropped the game winning touchdown.....they didn't stop us. Either way, the point differential alone suggests the gap wasn't that large to begin with.

They've lost 1000 yards of offense and signed some filler outside of Byrd. We've addressed 3 big holes and lost Gonzo. They've upgraded a position that wasn't really a hole to begin with.

We'll be adding 2 top 40 talents, they'll be adding 1.

Shall I go on.?

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I gotta be honest... It will take more than one offseason to fix the holes on this team. The thing is that most of the holes are on the defensive side. The majority of this draft needs to br defense, just to give Nolan a core that can grow together, we invested TOO much into this offense for us to invest another 1st rounder. Get another star for this defense... trade down in the second and get an OT, then the rest needs to be defense. We need to start replacing all these BVG leftovers. With this draft being strong defensively, it wouldn't make sense for us to ignore that side of the ball.

We would be lucky to get a wildcard birth. There are about 6 teams better than us...

Panthers (Until we figure out how to stop Cam from running all over us, we will lose evry tim).

N.O.

Tampa Bay (Lovie Smith will make this team tough in the draft)

Arizona (The defense will eat Ryan for breakfast reguardless of how terrible their offense is... Simply because our defense sucks)

Plus San Fran and Sea

Edited by Macintez
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For sure:

SF, SEA, NO, GB

On paper:

ARZ, DET, CAR, PHI

I can see Arizona and Philly being better on paper. Not sure about Carolina and Detroit. Carolina's got a great defense but that offense is in shambles now and they can only patch it up so much in one offseason. Detroit can never seem to get their crap together. Imagine if Drew Brees and Cam Newton both got injured and we still didn't sniff the playoffs. That's Detroit last year. And Green Bay is a shaky team that has a bad O-line and a mediocre defense. They struggle against the read option worse than we do and they haven't been prepared for postseason play since 2011. San Fran and New Orleans obviously have the more balanced teams, but I think Matt, Roddy, and Julio can put us over the top if we see some adequate line-play in 2014.

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3-4alignment_crop_exact.jpg?w=650&h=433&q=85

In 3-4 looks, we're going to have Solial in the middle. All 340 pounds of him. On one side of him (at least on early downs) will be Tyson Jackson. On the other, Babs or Peters. In 4-3 looks I guess you'll see Solial, Babs, and Peters splitting time inside and maybe Osi and Biermann and Mass on the outside.

At linebacker, you'll have Weatherspoon and Worrilow (backed up by Dent) making tackles in the holes that Solial opens up. On the outside you'll have Bartu, Bierman and whoever we draft (also being backed up by Mass).

Trufant and Alford will have a full year under their belts (and Trufant is on pace to be a real player in the League). Then you bring in a safety to play next to Moore.

If you guys really think that that defense is far away from helping us to bounce back and immediately become one of the top teams in the NFC, I don't know why you root for the Falcons to be honest with you.

Edited by Nole9782
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Offensive line - probably worse, yes. If Baker is healthy and we draft an OT high then I think our O-line will be better with Asamoah.

Defensive line - maybe better Yes

Linebackers - How have our LBs gotten better? Bartu and Worrilow.

Steven Jackson - isn't it obvious this guy is about done? Not really. Horrible run-blocking last year, and SJax still got 500+ yards and 6 touchdowns while sitting out half the year.

The biggest concern is the passing game for the Falcons. Not only protection, but are our stud WRs going to be an stay healthy and how bad will Ryan miss Gonzo.

Without those stud WRs being a full go, this team doesn't have much.

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Extremely difficult to tell. So many people on here act like the injuries were all that happened wrong to the Falcons in 2013. Even if you just focused on the injuries they exposed that Dimitroff had built paper-thin depth with the roster.

Quite frankly even if everything goes right...i.e., free agents perform well and the Falcons have a good draft I don't see this as a playoff team in 2014...8-8, 9-7...

So, I guess by definition everyone who makes the playoffs from the 2014 season will be better than us.

-I think there is a middle place between injuries and lack of depth/talent. If we are healthy and playing to our abilities, we are definitely a playoff team. Maybe not a super bowl team, but not an 8-8 roster. If we get a RT that can play and Baker is healthy, we go 11-5 at least.
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Who did we lose on the D-line compared to that year? Abraham and Vance Walker. I think Osi is almost as good as Abraham and Soleil is a tad bit better than Vance Walker (not to mention adding Jackson). The D-line is clearly better.

OL...maybe not. Hard to say. I truly do not trust Sam Baker to stay healthy whatsoever. We'll draft a tackle and that'll help. Signing Asamoah will help. It shouldn't be a huge drop off from that year.

Who did we lose at LB? Nicholas and Peterson. I'd say Bartu and Worrilow are at least as good. Add in a player in the draft I think our linebackers will be better.

Michael Turner was godawful and totally done his last year. I have no doubt in my mind that if he can get any blocking at all Jackson will be an improvement this year.

Roddy has always been pretty healthy. I don't think he had ever missed a game before this year. He would play...effectively...even if he was dinged up. Julio is a different story. He's like the Adrian Peterson of wide receivers. He plays with a recklessness for every last half yard. But my only real worry is the O-line.

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Seattle

San Fran

Philly

New Orleans

Green Bay

Chicago

Arizona

New York

Detroit

All very possible and most even likely to be better than us

Yep, if we played each team 10 times, who would win more times. (so no any given sunday BS)

I'd take out New York though. Eli just isn't that good and giants d isn't what it was. chicago is likely a wash. they have no d as of last year but it would be tough for us to stop the monsters of the midway

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3-4alignment_crop_exact.jpg?w=650&h=433&q=85

In 3-4 looks, we're going to have Solial in the middle. All 340 pounds of him. On one side of him (at least on early downs) will be Tyson Jackson. On the other, Babs or Peters. In 4-3 looks I guess you'll see Solial, Babs, and Peters splitting time inside and maybe Osi and Biermann and Mass on the outside.

At linebacker, you'll have Weatherspoon and Worrilow (backed up by Dent) making tackles in the holes that Solial opens up. On the outside you'll have Bartu, Bierman and whoever we draft (also being backed up by Mass).

Trufant and Alford will have a full year under their belts (and Trufant is on pace to be a real player in the League). Then you bring in a safety to play next to Moore.

If you guys really think that that defense is far away from helping us to bounce back and immediately become one of the top teams in the NFC, I don't know why you root for the Falcons to be honest with you.

So you're saying all our defensive problems are solved? In one offseason?

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I am a Saints fan. I say that so that you reconcile my bias up front even if my response to the OP's question is not grounded in bias.

Right now, I look at the conference in tiers.

First Tier--Superbowl Contenders (listed alphabetically)

1. New Orleans Saints

2. San Francisco 49'ners

3. Seattle Seahawks

To me, if you lined up and played football today, these three teams have the personnel in place to vie for a Superbowl. They each have solid defenses and productive offenses. The Seahawks lost Golden Tate and cut Sidney Rice(who they are said to want back) but their defense, which was primarily responsible for their ascent last season to the Superbowl, remains intact. They have a question mark at RT and they will need to add some help on the outside. But they are a run-first team who believing in wearing teams down and allowing their defense to dismantle opposing teams' offenses. Nothing this offseason has changed their ability to do this. Likewise, the 49'ners bring a similar ruggedness and tenacity to what they do. They are showing some age along the defensive line, particularly with Justin Smith. Smith's presence is key because he allows Aldon Smith to get more one-on-one attention in pursuit of the quarterback. They lost Whitner but replaced him with Antoine Bethea. I think Whitner brought toughness to the team that will be missed more than some experts might think. I also would keep an eye on how quickly Navarro Bowman is able to return to health. While Patrick Willis is arguably the best MLB in football, Bowman is the tone-setter on that defense. The good thing is that the Niners have enough draft picks to add to their depth there. They definitely need to address the CB position but, by and large, they are talented on defense and should be fine. Of the three teams I have listed here, I think they are the most shaky. They have some injuries--even on the offensive line where they have been strong--that cause tremendous pause. But they are resilient and I do expect they will be in the running. The Saints defense got younger last season and were vastly improved. They should be even better in year 2 with Rob Ryan, and they will be aided by ballhawking safety Jairus Byrd who will be paired with Kenny Vaccaro to give the Saints the closest safety tandem rivaling what Seattle has in place. Keenan Lewis was a shutdown corner last year and is vastly underrated. They have question marks at the other corner position with Patrick Robinson coming off injury and Corey White being better suited for a nickel position. But Ryan likes to use three safeties and has the ability to scheme around the weakness. They were #2 in pass defense even after Jabari Greer and Vaccaro went down and I suspect they'll continue to be stout. I look for them to draft a CB high in May's draft. The run defense is cause for concern. They were stout up the middle but there were times when the middle backers missed tackles that sprung big runs. They will need to be more disciplined and add younger talent in the middle. A Sean Payton-coached and Drew- Brees-led offense will always be able to put up yards and score points. But they are solely in need of talent on the outside. I think WR is the #1 priority and will also be addressed in May's draft. Yet, they have enough pieces in place right now that they would still be competitive. The re-signing of Strief keeps the line fairly intact and I think there will be greater emphasis on running the football while having a quick strike offense still in place. Bottom line, these teams are not short of any weaknesses. But they have the most pieces in place and the least holes to fill heading into the draft.

Second Tier--Potential Contenders

4. Green Bay Packers

Initially, I started to put Arizona and Philadelphia into this category. But I am not sold, at this point, on either. Carson Palmer performed better than last season than he had played in the previous three seasons. And Bruce Arians is a master motivator. I also like their defense. But there is something missing with this team. I cannot put my finger on it but I am hesitant to argue they are potential contenders at this point. I think right now they could vie for a playoff spot--but I do not think they are built to make a run at the Superbowl and they play in a very tough division. Philly is going to be a sexy pick for some but again I am not sold on them. They added Darren Sproles who I think will help them out even as I concede he has lost a step. He is still capable of beating most linebackers. They also added Malcolm Jenkins who is a heady player. He is not going to get you 7 interceptions but he'll come up with a huge play every now and then. Further, he's better than what they have had in the past. They need to address their defensive line and I think they still can stand to build up their secondary. Too many times last year, the Eagles looked like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is like you do not know what you'll get with this team week-to-week. They have pieces in place but is too early to call them a contender, especially when I can name teams in the next grouping that could beat them on any given day.

The Packers stand alone here because of Aaron Rodgers. When you have a championship QB, it makes all the difference. Rodgers was hurt last season but this team is a threat when he is back there throwing the football. I do not know that the Peppers signing will be worth the hype but I do like that they re-signed Sam Shields. They can stand to add depth at CB and will have to take a safety very early on in the draft. They also need help at center and could used a third receiver with the departure of James Jones. But they were close to making the playoffs last year and Rodgers should have them in position to make a run this year.

Carolina should be on this list but they seem like a team that is regressing. The defense is one of the best in the league. But losing Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell in the secondary as well as your top four receivers is not going to make you anyone's flavor of the month. They have serious work to do and let us not forget that they are in need of a LT with the retirement of Gross. I think this a team that could still be good if they have another solid draft but it won't be easy and they will not fill every hole. They will continue to make be relevant because of their defense but I see them as a team that will likely find themselves on the outside looking in, which is interesting since they would have likely been in the contender category had they been able to retain more of their players.

Third Tier--On the cusp

5. Arizona Cardinals

6. Atlanta Falcons

7. Carolina Panthers

8. Philadelphia Eagles

9. St. Louis Rams

I have already talked about three of the teams here. So let me get to the Falcons and Rams. The Falcons have a lot of holes still left to fill. They have a solid core group and they have talented players at the skill positions. They are only two season removed from playing in the NFC Championship game so they have the makeup and the coaching to return quickly back to form. The reason they are not contenders or potential contenders yet is that they have work to do. It was important to add Jackson and Soliai (even though I think they overpaid a little for both) to begin to construct a 3-4 defense. Both players are strong against the run and with the return over Babineaux should give the Falcons a solid front three. I know they have some young pass rushers and you cannot rule any of those guys out as emerging players. After all, we saw what happened when the Saints gave Junior Galette a chance to be a fulltime starter. Nonetheless, it will be crucial for this team to add a playmaker at OLB--someone who can disrupt the passing game with constant pressure on the quarterback. They have young, talented corners in place including my cousin (Robert Alford--also related to Tramon Williams) but they have serious concerns at FS. That it is a huge hole that will need to be filled. They also have a hole at TE and along the OL. The player to keep an eye on is Sean Weatherspoon. On the one hand, he energizes the team with his presence. On the other hand, he, at times, has not played up to his potential. If the 3-4 defense is to be successful and if the Falcons are to return to being one of the top 4 to 5 teams in the conference, he'll have to step up. They'll also need more consistency out of Willie Mo. On offense, Ryan needs protection. Jones' return will be vital as he is a top 10 WR, maybe even top 5 when healthy. Roddy, like Colston, is slowing down but is still a solid player. I am not sold on Harry Douglas and feel that he was outplayed by guys lower on the depth chart. But that is for the Falcons to figure out. Bottom line, they should be a playoff contender again assuming they stay healthy. But how quickly they are able to transition successfully in playing the 3-4 and how adept they are at filling the huge holes they have will determine if they are able to rise into the top tier of the conference. One last point on them--they have to generate a running game. When they have been at their best, they have been able to run the football. Stephen Jackson or someone has to be able to wear defenses down as their team is built around controlling the clock and allow Matt Ryan to beat you off playaction.

The Rams have talent and coaching in place to rise. They are in a tough division but they are not that far removed from challenging the Hawks and Niners. What they are missing is consistency at QB and OL, a gamebreaker at WR to pair with Tavon Austin, and secondary help. They can fix some of these problems in the draft, especially with two picks in the first thirteen. If they can add a tackle like Greg Robinson and a wide receiver like Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins and Taylor Lewan, they will be on their way. Likewise, in the second and third rounds, players like Jimmy Ward and a nice CB like Jaylen Watkins or Marcus Roberson would make tremendous sense. But the key for them no matter who they draft will be the play of Sam Bradford. The Hawks and Niners remain the class of that division because of the play they get at QB. Bradford has the capability to be good but he has been woefully inconsistent. His receivers have not helped him, and neither has his offensive line. So they have to get those things worked out. If they do, this team can catapult to the top tier because they have a defense in place that is more than capable of being disruptive.

Fourth Tier--On the fence

10. Chicago Bears

11. Detroit Lions

12. New York Giants

13. Tampa Bay Bucs

These teams belong in the previous category. But I am more on the fence about them. The Bears and Lions are notorious for starting fast but playing poorly down the stretch. The Giants have started slow but play better down the stretch. They are capable of beating teams ranked ahead of them but it seems every year, no matter how much talent they have in place, they implode. The Lions will be markedly improved with Joe Lombardi calling plays, which I think will allow Staffold to settle down. Calvin Johnson remains the best WR in the game and Reggie Bush has really improved as a runner. Adding Tate was smart though I think they should look to add a WR somewhere in the middle rounds. I think early on, they have to target defense. Justin Gilbert would be an excellent pick for them and Deone Bucannon looks like a player who could replace Louis Delmas. It will be important for the new coaching staff to instill discipline into this team as it was sorely lacking during the Schwartz era. But this team is built to rise if they play with more consistency and discipline. The Bears have the pieces on offense but they suffer from two problems: Jay Cutler and their commitment to him. Cutler is not far removed from being Tony Romo. Both players will give you great moments at times but lack the consistency to be elite QBs. The Bears made a mistake by re-inserting Cutler back into the lineup and a bigger mistake by giving him a 7-year deal. I think he will be their achilles heel. Their defense also is not what is used to be and it'll be interesting to see how well they do with LaMarr Houston up front. They still need help on the interior as well as at DE. They are a team who also have needs in the secondary, and will have to address both the CB and S positions. They should be competitive but their hopes will ride on the play of Cutler, which is never a sure thing. With the Giants, they have made a lot of moves. But when the Giants have been strong, their D-line has been beastly and they have had a solid running game. Last season, the defensive line was inconsistent and the running game was non-existent. It will be interesting to see if Jennings helps to fix their running game or gives them a more consistent rushing attack. JPP will have to play like he is top tier pass rusher and not get too caught up in reading his own headlines. I am still not sold on that secondary even with the additions they have made. They should be better but I think they will still be vulnerable against top-flight passing teams. The Giants have proven they are able to pull things together and make a run. And Eli, for all his faults, can come up big when necessary. They are primed to return to form, but even we must admit that their top form during their Superbowl years was still a bag of inconsistency and uncertainty up until the very end. Finally, you have the Bucs. Adding Lovie Smith was a smart move and I think you'll see them make improvements. But I am not as high on their offseason moves as everyone else seems to be. I like Verner but more as a #2 CB. He had his best season last year in a contract year, which is always a concern. I think their best signing was Anthony Collins who I think will be solid. Michael Johnson had 3 sacks after a breakout season the previous year. He missed Geno Atkins, which allowed him more one-on-one opportunities. But I also felt he was inconsistent and disinterested at times. He has always been tagged a player whose motor runs hot and cold and that is not good for a team who seem to share that label, certainly last season. The Bucs have as much talent as anyone but they have to able to put it together. They added McNown but people out not get too overly excited about that signing. He gives them stability but he is still a career backup who had his best season with a Chicago offense that is more talented than what he inherits in Tampa. I am sure the Bucs would love to see Sammy Watkins fall into their lap. If not, I think they would be wise to solidify their offensive line or trade down, take a player like CJ Mosely and add a pick in the second or third round where they can get some offensive help. I think they have to add another WR and a guard would not be a bad pick. They are positioned to be better and I think they will be. How much better remains to be seen.

Fifth Tier--Pulling up the Rear

14. Dallas Cowboys

15. Minnesota Vikings

16. Washington Redskins

I am not going to say these teams do not have a chance. As for the Vikings, they have some pieces in place but are in desperate need of a QB. More than likely, they will take one in May but I have a difficult time thinking that a rookie will put them over the top. Peterson is driven to be the best and can be more deadly with sound play at QB but I do not see it being enough--not to get them over the hump with so many good teams ahead of them. RGIII has to be healthy for the Skins to have a chance. The Redskins could really use that #2 pick this season that they gave to get Griffin. They will have to make the most of their other picks and Haslett has got to do a better job of running the defense. They have some talent in place though I think they grossly overpaid for Jason Hatcher. As for the Cowboys, unless Jerry Jones fires himself, I do not think they team has any shot of returning to the top tier of the conference. They might flirt with the playoffs but even that will not make them a team on the cusp because we all know that they are an accident waiting to happen and will somehow, someway, shoot themselves in the foot.

A lot can change with the draft but for right now this is how I see. So if you ask me how is better than the Falcons, I would say that you have three teams that look to be clearly better and one team that is a notch above. The Falcons can compete with those teams. While I am not biggest fan of Mike Smith, his guys always play hard and never quit on him. But I think the first four teams stand in the Falcons way of returning to the top and teams like the Cardinals, Eagles, Panthers, Rams and even Bears, Giants, and Lions are just as good as the Falcons though the latter three might not be as well-positioned to become contenders as Atlanta.

Edited by theonenotthe2
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Ever one in the NFL west is better. The Saints it doesn't matter if the Saint may drop off talent wise Mike Smith couldn't even beat their back up coach. I think we'll scrape by Tampa and carolina. And no next year's team will not be better but then again every mike Smith coached and Thomas Dimitroff managed falcons were never that good to begin with

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Ever one in the NFL west is better. The Saints it doesn't matter if the Saint may drop off talent wise Mike Smith couldn't even beat their back up coach. I think we'll scrape by Tampa and carolina. And no next year's team will not be better but then again every mike Smith coached and Thomas Dimitroff managed falcons were never that good to begin with

I hate the Falcons but you are selling your team short to say that every team in the NFC West is better. I think you can say that about the Seahawks and Niners. But you guys gave the Niners a run for their money in San Francisco. The Cardinals would be a favorite to beat you all in Arizona while you all would be a favorite to beat them in Atlanta. Likewise, the Rams would likely be favored though I think the Falcons can trust Ryan more than the Rams can trust Bradford. The concern for the Falcons against the Rams would be the ability to protect Ryan from that the ferocious pass rush. I think the Saint, like the Niners and Seahawks, are better. But I think your team is more than capable of being a playoff team if they are able to have a solid draft, stay healthy, and build depth. I think that is the thing that hurt your team last year--lack of depth. Other teams had just as many injuries as the Falcons. I know the Saints had several key injuries. But they were able to have the depth in place. The Falcons found guys like Bartu and Worrilow so the cup was not totally bare.

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I hate the Falcons but you are selling your team short to say that every team in the NFC West is better. I think you can say that about the Seahawks and Niners. But you guys gave the Niners a run for their money in San Francisco. The Cardinals would be a favorite to beat you all in Arizona while you all would be a favorite to beat them in Atlanta. Likewise, the Rams would likely be favored though I think the Falcons can trust Ryan more than the Rams can trust Bradford. The concern for the Falcons against the Rams would be the ability to protect Ryan from that the ferocious pass rush. I think the Saint, like the Niners and Seahawks, are better. But I think your team is more than capable of being a playoff team if they are able to have a solid draft, stay healthy, and build depth. I think that is the thing that hurt your team last year--lack of depth. Other teams had just as many injuries as the Falcons. I know the Saints had several key injuries. But they were able to have the depth in place. The Falcons found guys like Bartu and Worrilow so the cup was not totally bare.

yep only a playoff team wash, rinse repeat under smith
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I am a Saints fan. I say that so that you reconcile my bias up front even if my response to the OP's question is not grounded in bias.

Right now, I look at the conference in tiers.

First Tier--Superbowl Contenders (listed alphabetically)

1. New Orleans Saints

2. San Francisco 49'ners

3. Seattle Seahawks

The Saints defense got younger last season and were vastly improved. They should be even better in year 2 with Rob Ryan, and they will be aided by ballhawking safety Jairus Byrd who will be paired with Kenny Vaccaro to give the Saints the closest safety tandem rivaling what Seattle has in place. Keenan Lewis was a shutdown corner last year and is vastly underrated. They have question marks at the other corner position with Patrick Robinson coming off injury and Corey White being better suited for a nickel position. But Ryan likes to use three safeties and has the ability to scheme around the weakness. They were #2 in pass defense even after Jabari Greer and Vaccaro went down and I suspect they'll continue to be stout. I look for them to draft a CB high in May's draft. The run defense is cause for concern. They were stout up the middle but there were times when the middle backers missed tackles that sprung big runs. They will need to be more disciplined and add younger talent in the middle. A Sean Payton-coached and Drew- Brees-led offense will always be able to put up yards and score points. But they are solely in need of talent on the outside. I think WR is the #1 priority and will also be addressed in May's draft. Yet, they have enough pieces in place right now that they would still be competitive. The re-signing of Strief keeps the line fairly intact and I think there will be greater emphasis on running the football while having a quick strike offense still in place. Bottom line, these teams are not short of any weaknesses. But they have the most pieces in place and the least holes to fill heading into the draft.

Third Tier--On the cusp

5. Arizona Cardinals

6. Atlanta Falcons

7. Carolina Panthers

8. Philadelphia Eagles

9. St. Louis Rams

I have already talked about three of the teams here. So let me get to the Falcons and Rams. The Falcons have a lot of holes still left to fill. They have a solid core group and they have talented players at the skill positions. They are only two season removed from playing in the NFC Championship game so they have the makeup and the coaching to return quickly back to form. The reason they are not contenders or potential contenders yet is that they have work to do. It was important to add Jackson and Soliai (even though I think they overpaid a little for both) to begin to construct a 3-4 defense. Both players are strong against the run and with the return over Babineaux should give the Falcons a solid front three. I know they have some young pass rushers and you cannot rule any of those guys out as emerging players. After all, we saw what happened when the Saints gave Junior Galette a chance to be a fulltime starter. Nonetheless, it will be crucial for this team to add a playmaker at OLB--someone who can disrupt the passing game with constant pressure on the quarterback. They have young, talented corners in place including my cousin (Robert Alford--also related to Tramon Williams) but they have serious concerns at FS. That it is a huge hole that will need to be filled. They also have a hole at TE and along the OL. The player to keep an eye on is Sean Weatherspoon. On the one hand, he energizes the team with his presence. On the other hand, he, at times, has not played up to his potential. If the 3-4 defense is to be successful and if the Falcons are to return to being one of the top 4 to 5 teams in the conference, he'll have to step up. They'll also need more consistency out of Willie Mo. On offense, Ryan needs protection. Jones' return will be vital as he is a top 10 WR, maybe even top 5 when healthy. Roddy, like Colston, is slowing down but is still a solid player. I am not sold on Harry Douglas and feel that he was outplayed by guys lower on the depth chart. But that is for the Falcons to figure out. Bottom line, they should be a playoff contender again assuming they stay healthy. But how quickly they are able to transition successfully in playing the 3-4 and how adept they are at filling the huge holes they have will determine if they are able to rise into the top tier of the conference. One last point on them--they have to generate a running game. When they have been at their best, they have been able to run the football. Stephen Jackson or someone has to be able to wear defenses down as their team is built around controlling the clock and allow Matt Ryan to beat you off playaction.

A lot can change with the draft but for right now this is how I see. So if you ask me how is better than the Falcons, I would say that you have three teams that look to be clearly better and one team that is a notch above. The Falcons can compete with those teams. While I am not biggest fan of Mike Smith, his guys always play hard and never quit on him. But I think the first four teams stand in the Falcons way of returning to the top and teams like the Cardinals, Eagles, Panthers, Rams and even Bears, Giants, and Lions are just as good as the Falcons though the latter three might not be as well-positioned to become contenders as Atlanta.

Thanks for the long and thoughtful post. I personally appreciated it. I guarantee you that your cousin's team will will the division this year and not your favorite team. I thought, overall, you gave a great analysis. And like I said, I really do appreciate the time and effort you put into it. But you say you're not biased, but admit the team has a huge weakness against the run. Granted, the League is more of a passing League now than in the past...and your team is going to put up a lot of points and so other teams will probably have to pass...but if you can't stop the run I don't see how you think you can contend for the conference. The key to stopping your team, as Mike Smith knows, is significantly winning the TOP (and getting pressure on Brees). Keep your defense on the field and your offense out of sink. And a bad run defense is going to make your team really susceptible to that. I have no doubt y'all will outscore plenty of people (even though Brees and Colston are getting older). Your team is going to get beatup. I do think your team plays a little dirty, to be honest with you. So, God only knows how they'll respond. But the Saints will not win the division and they have little chance of winning the conference. The D isn't going to be good enough, in my opinion.

Edited by Nole9782
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Don't quit yours. How do you figure a 4-12 team is better than most of the NFC. Even before all the injuries the Falcons were struggling big time. Now that Gonzo is gone, Ryan has no safety blanket.

Falcons are a team filled with injury prone players with very little depth, which to me is a disaster waiting to happen.

I do understand this thought process, but if the same question was asked prior to the start of the 2013 season, do you think we would have gone 4-12 and that all of those teams mentioned earlier were better than us?

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Thanks for the long and thoughtful post. I personally appreciated it. I guarantee you that your cousin's team will will the division this year and not your favorite team. I thought, overall, you gave a great analysis. And like I said, I really do appreciate the time and effort you put into it. But you say you're not biased, but admit the team has a huge weakness against the run. Granted, the League is more of a passing League now than in the past...and your team is going to put up a lot of points and so other teams will probably have to pass...but if you can't stop the run I don't see how you think you can contend for the conference. The key to stopping your team, as Mike Smith knows, is significantly winning the TOP (and getting pressure on Brees). Keep your defense on the field and your offense out of sink. And a bad run defense is going to make your team really susceptible to that. I have no doubt y'all will outscore plenty of people (even though Brees and Colston are getting older). Your team is going to get beatup. I do think your team plays a little dirty, to be honest with you. So, God only knows how they'll respond. But the Saints will not win the division and they have little chance of winning the conference. The D isn't going to be good enough, in my opinion.

For the Saints, I think the defense is whats going to make them great this year. Weird to say that but it looks like Payton wants to be more conservative on offense. Instead of 70/30 pass to run, we may see a 60/40 or 55/50. The run defense wasnt good early on but it got better and more consistent later in the season. I dont think the run d will cause any problems for the Saints.

For the Falcons, Asamoah looks like a great fit and is a good pass blocker. Getting a 1st round RT would really bolster the line. Which makes that offense alot more dynamic. SJax looked slow last season but with a healthy line in front, I think he can be serviceable. Defensively, Soliai will help a lot in the trenches. Jackson is an avg player but a rotational player that was needed. I dont see Osi playing many 3-4 alignments but most teams are in nickel 50% so he would be at the line for those. I dont know what the other 2 can do; Mass and Mopanga (sp). Baru looks really small to be outside so he may slide inside on the weakside. The LBs are really a big ? for Atl. Trufant was great as a rookie but Alford struggled. He should get better though. Safety is a ? also. Depending on how some of these holes are filled, I can see ATL battling for the division.

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