The Atlanta Falcons need a running game, or some other way to play with a lead (keep the pedal to the metal?). Otherwise, their Super Bowl aspirations will probably end with the first postseason game in which they face a really good defense.
The play of Atlanta's offensive line received some pundit praise on Monday night in the team's contest against the Denver Broncos, but rarely did it have much responsibility. Most of Matt Ryan's drop-backs were short. The Falcons will be able to take advantage of defenses that crowd the line of scrimmage in response to that mode, but probably not often enough to sustain drives as a matter of habit.
The no-huddle O and the emphasis on the passing game should continue to have positive effects on the QB's and receivers' fantasy numbers. The Falcons may not wish - or need - to unleash the vertical attack often. How much of that has to do with their relative faith in the men up front?
Liability: Turner, or O?
Michael Turner's DUI arrest isn't going to affect Atlanta's ability to run the ball. As Cory pointed out prior to the start of the season, the team's conversion of its base O and, essentially, its philosophy of the running game have already done that. Atlanta's offense doesn't fit its primary runner snugly any more.
I think the long-term plan will require some revision. Any good plan does, but revision could affect fantasy production. It may not be the worst idea to view your Falcons - Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez - as eventual sell-high commodities to guard against the effects of possible changes.
The stance doesn't require peddling them, just an open-mindedness to the idea of swapping them in the right circumstances. The New York Giants (Week 15) may remain a pushover to the pass, and the Detroit Lions (Week 16) may not be much better, but each team has the resources (including a potentially elite pass rush) to make the matchup less than a given in any particular week, especially against Atlanta's O-line. Week 14 (Carolina Panthers) presents a possible stumbling block, too.
This, of course, is assuming that the Falcons aren't complacent. Mike Smith seems like a forward-thinking coach. But the staff has to be willing to address its team's faults even when they're winning.
The better case for fantasy owners may be that this organization doesn't view the vulnerabilities of its line and running game as problems. Hell, maybe they're not. The Falcons have an impressive offense, from a distance.
But when a great team creates four turnovers in the first quarter of a home game, it then delivers some uppercuts and, soon after, the knockout blow. The Falcons let the Broncos get up off the canvas way too often, and Denver had a legit shot at a win by decision in the final round.
The Falcons will be a fun team to watch, for one reason or another.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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