High Expectations For The Atlanta Falcons In 2009

Wes HoltzclawCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons walks throws a pass in the NFC Wild Card Game against the Arizona Cardinals on January 3, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Falcons 30-24.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In 2008, the Atlanta Falcons were coming off a horrible 4-12 2007 season. It was a season that was filled with everything from their star quarterback going to prison to their coach leaving before the season was over.

In stepped Thomas Dimitroff as the General Manager and he quickly hired a defensive minded coach in Mike Smith.

Together they started to rebuild a franchise that had crumbled in only one year.

They signed Micheal Turner to be their feature back after he had spent his entire career as LaDanian Tomlinson's back-up. They drafted Matt Ryan with the No. 3 pick in the draft to be the face of the franchise.

Nobody expected the Falcons to do much better than the 2007 season. "It would take three years before we see any results" is what many experts would say.

But after going 11-5 and making the playoffs in just their first year together, the Falcons are making some noise in the NFC.

Some say the defense took a big hit with the departures of SS Lawyer Milloy, NT Grady Jackson, CB Domonique Foxworth, and LBs Michael Boley and Keith Brooking.

The Falcons responded by signing LBs Mike Peterson and Edmond Miles. They also drafted DT Peria Jerry, S William Moore, and DE Lawrence Sidbury Jr.

All in all the Falcons drafted seven defensive players out of their eight total draft picks.

The biggest expectation will come from the offensive side of the ball. After Ryan and Turner's spectacular '08 performances and throw in TE Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons will have a high octane offense that will score with anybody.

The schedule is tough but it sets up quite nicely for a run at the NFC South division title. They play Miami, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, and Buffalo at home.

They play New England at Foxbourgh, but it is in September so the weather won't play a factor. The only cold weather game could be the Dec. 20th matchup at Giants Stadium against the NY Jets.

If the team can build off the momentum they created in '08 and avoid a sophomore slump from Matt Ryan, the Falcons should not only contend for a NFC South title but also represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.