I'm predicting an 11-5 record. The Falcons have a brutal early season schedule against quality teams like the Eagles and Packers, which will set them back. But I do expect them to pick up considerable steam as the season goes on, and they always raise their game against fellow NFC South teams.
Best Game On The Schedule
The Falcons' rematch against the Packers is definitely the one I'm picking. You've got the Super Bowl champs up against a team hungry to prove they just had a bad game in the playoffs. Worth watching as a potential preview for the NFC Championship game in 2011.
Player Who Takes A Step Back This Year
Probably Michael Turner, again. He's regressed the last two seasons, the Falcons are opening up the passing game and the offensive line has at least one new face. He'll still put up big numbers, but they won't knock your socks off.
Breakout Player Candidates
Julio Jones could break out big in his rookie season as the 1A option in the Falcons' new-look passing attack. Jonathan Babineaux is a beast at defensive tackle and has never had a better line around him. Ditto Peria Jerry, who will be looking to prove himself after two injury-riddled, ineffective seasons at defensive tackle. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton should finally earn that first Pro Bowl berth.
Matt Ryan is starting to get his due, and that seems right. In his fourth season in the NFL and with more weapons than he's ever had before, Ryan is poised to become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. You know, if you don't believe he's there already.
Best Falcons Player Others Have Never Heard Of
If you haven't heard of Brent Grimes, you really ought to. He's piled up 11 interceptions in the last two years and is a classic ballhawk at cornerback. Grimes is also extremely underrated in coverage.
Fantasy Football Outlook
Look out for Julio Jones. Rookie receivers traditionally struggle, but Jones is NFL-ready and a huge red zone target. In scoring only leagues, he could be a steal.
Definitely keep a close eye on Matt Ryan, who should be among the top seven quarterbacks in the NFL this season.
Draft Michael Turner, who is a virtual lock for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
And don't ever pass up on Roddy White, who is guaranteed to pick up north of 70 catches for 1,000 yards and a heap of touchdowns. In fact, draft all three. Just do it.
Best Media Personality In Atlanta
Tough call, but I'll go with D. Orlando Ledbetter. He's a polarizing figure, but the high socks, sun hats and entertaining personality make him worth watching in every interview. He's also the most prolific Falcons reporter by a mile.
Best Player To Follow On Twitter
Roddy White. No one is more entertaining or more willing to speak their mind. Close second to Curtis Lofton, who is a genuinely nice guy whose Tweets reflect that.