The Atlanta Falcons should have been the NFC champions last season. They had arguably the most dynamic receiving corps in the NFL with Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, and of course a very well blossomed Matt Ryan under center.
But gone is the past, and while the present holds worthless (at least in my opinion) preseason games, we look to the future and the upcoming 2013 season.
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff wasted no time in the offseason. He immediately let go of three veteran players to somewhat rebuild the awful running game and added a larger threat on the defensive side of the ball.
By releasing running back Michael Turner, cornerback Denard Robinson, and defensive end John Abraham, the Falcons added prized free agent running back Steven Jackson to the backfield as well as a premier pass rusher, Osi Umenyiora.
As if the off season wasn't busy enough, the biggest moves for the Falcons remained within the confines of the organization itself. Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith wooed legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez out of retierment and convinced him to remain with the Falcons for one more season.
Also, the long awaited contract extension for Matt Ryan was finally agreed upon. Matty Ice officially became the franchise superstar that the city of Atlanta so desperately needed by signing a five-year $104 million dollar deal.
With the new high-powered backfield and arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL, the Falcons are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.
While the team has a few holes in the offensive line, the Falcons will score a lot of points with the "hurry up offense" they love to utilize, as well as stop opposing offenses with pressure from returning linebackers Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas and corners Asante Samuel and Desmond Trufant.
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The Falcons aren't necessarily an aged team, but they have veterans in almost every position to not only help the up-and-coming players learn about how the game is played, but also on how to lead on the field.
With that wisdom and leadership, the Falcons can dominate almost every team. And just for good measure, they'll play 11 teams that were under the .500 mark last season, six of which are against the other teams in the NFC South.
There are nothing but high expectations for the Falcons this upcoming season. They are in the top tier of elite teams in the NFC, along with the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Green Bay Packers.
A lot is riding on this season for the Falcons, as the expectation is nothing short of a Super Bowl victory. While Matt Ryan is not at the "elite" quarterback level quite yet, if he leads the Falcons to their first Super Bowl champaionship, he will have the elite status that only a few quarterbacks in the NFL do.
And as for Tony Gonzalez, if the Falcons win the Super Bowl, the greatest tight end in history will ride off into the sunset on top.
The Falcons are favorites to win the NFC South division. They are contenders to win the NFC Championship game too. Any football fan knows that the Falcons are not a team to mess with.
They are one of 32 teams that are hungry for the Lombardi Trophy, but they are one of the few teams that have the roster, leadership, and determination to actually go out and grab it.
By: Neil Shelat