It's not quiet as good as meeting Miami in the dark days of 0-8 would have been, but the Rams/Falcons match up this week offers about as even a match as we're going to get this season.
These are two teams in a bad place...to say the least. Like the Rams, the Falcons' O-line has been injury plagued. They're missing two starters, which to us seems like forgetting your undershirt or something. However, that's affected the quarterback play quite a bit. Oh, but the similarities don't stop there. Hell, there are even the literary similarities. A once dominant team fallen from grace, struggling, and looking left behind by the rest of the league. Of course, the Rams didn't unexpectedy lose their franchise QB after trading away their young understudy, ready for his big stage debut.
In swapping questions with Dave the Falconer at SBN's Falcon's site, The Falcoholic, the parallels really stood out. The one that jumped up and smacked me in the face though was the shared coaching pains. Like the Rams, the Falcons hired an offensive "genius" who's struggling to score points with his team. Petrino, at least, has the first year excuse and the whole Vick thing to fall back on, not to mention the injuries on the line. Linehan, if he doesn't win a very winnable game at home, may want to ask Petrino for a few contacts in the college world after the game.
TST: I suppose you're tired of answering them, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask a Michael Vick question. How has Vick departure affected the Falcons?
Falcoholic: If you took a rickety steamship and fired a cannonball straight through the engine room, you'd have roughly the effect. The Falcons are obviously not the same team without him. That's not even mentioning the fact that fan confidence in owner Arthur Blank was completely shaken. In the long term, the Falcons should be able to get past this, but it clear hurt the offense to take away one of the most dynamic playmakers, whether or not you believe he was a good quarterback.
TST: Like the Rams, the Falcons are ready for next season. What are they going to need to do differently to have a better year in 2008?
Falcoholic: They have to address the offensive line, first off. The Falcons have been pretty awful in both pass and run blocking all season long. It would also help if they had a promising young QB to protect back there. Finally--and this is key--Bobby Petrino must get his head out of his butt. Getting some of the more dynamic players involved in the offense would greatly help this team's chance of success. He's had a particularly weird fetish with keeping home-run hitting running back Jerious Norwood on the bench while Warrick Dunn piles up far less than 4 yards per carry. The defense is pretty solid, though.
TST: Our coach, Scott Linehan, is now in his second season and the returns on him don't look good. What's your take on Atlanta 's first year coach, Bobby Petrino?
Falcoholic: Oh, I already started to answer this question. Crap. I think Petrino's reputation as an offensive genis in college is now taking some left hooks in the pros. The offense has consistently looked anemic and useless all season long. That's saying something given that the Falcons employed Greg Knapp, one of the most painfully horrible offensive coordinators of my lifetime, the last couple of years. I do think he'll get better with some personnel changes that fit his schemes, but he's also proven to be a prickly dude who doesn't communicate well with his own players.
He and Linehan should have a beer or something.
TST: Harrington's starting, I see. Is that a better option than Leftwich?
Falcoholic: My gut says yes and my brain, much to my chagrin, is causing tears of desperation to appear in my eyes. Leftwich bombed so badly a couple weeks back that he's in real danger of not starting another game for the Falcons. Harrington has managed to be the very definition of mediocre for most of the season, but he rarely goes out there and loses the game for us. Given the way this season has gone, that represents the best choice.
TST: I know that late in a losing season it's hard to find any kind of silver linings, but there always seem to be a few. What positives have come out of the Falcons 2007 season?
Falcoholic: I have a few positives. Linebacker Michael Boley has turned in a fantastic season and should represent a long-term option there, (hopefully) following in the proud linebacking tradition of Keith Brooking and Jessie Tuggle. Roddy White has emerged at wide receiver in a way that makes me wonder if he's been possessed by the ghost of Andre Rison. The rookie class looks pretty good so far too, with corner Chris Houston, tackle Trey Lewis (now out on IR), and running back Jason Snelling all making/likely to make a difference. It's a good year to look at youth, if not much else.