Kinda-Sorta-Prettygood-Semi-Great Expectations

Mitch AllenContributor IMay 28, 2009

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 9: Cornerback Chris Owens #21 of the Atlanta Falcons intercepts a ball during minicamp at the Falcons Complex on May 9, 2009 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Paul Abell/Getty Images)


great Expectations





It's that time of year again, sports fans. the air is warm, it's never more than a few minutes away from rain, and the cloying scent of honeysuckle wafts teasingly, almost accusingly to my nostrils as i point my truck towards my office in the city. Yup, it's almost pro-football season, and as usual, not a minute too soon. i clear my schedule, kick everyone out of the house, and gird up my loins against whatever debacle my beloved Falcons have in store for me this year. Only this time, things are different. This time we're a contender. Wow. It feels weird just saying that.

I'm slowly dropping my guard and convincing myself that all the hardships and obstacles the Falcons will face this year will be of a more...conventional variety. No more desertions, no more felonies. Just tough games, in a tough division, on a tough schedule. Atlanta has a long row to how this year, and I have a feeling that some of our toughest challenges are going to come from our own backyard. The expectations will be great heading out of Flowery Branch, and for good reason. I don't think anyone can deny the scent of Superbowl contention emanating from dirty-bird nation even as we speak. Morale is high, and the insane assemblage of talent Atlanta has compiled can do nothing but help. Our schedule, on the other hand, most certainly will not. To illustrate my point, lets look at the first three weeks before the bye. two playoff teams from '08 at home, and then the red-eye to Foxboro. Ouch. Let's put this in perspective, shall we/ Together, the teams we square off against in weeks 1-3 compiled 34 wins in the regular season last year. What that says to me is that whatever breaks we catch this year won't be coming from our schedule.

There's a saying where I come from, "with great expectations, come life's greatest disappointments. that has always made a lot of sense to me, and I've always held it as gospel. Until now. I believe that the 2009 Atlanta Falcons are going to debunk that whole philosophy. In fact, I expect it. Would you like to know the basis for my new-found optimism? Very well, have a seat down right there and I'll tell you. Let's start with the incumbents, shall we?

Matt Ryan- That's right, "Matty Ice". The warm gooey center of our silly little football universe. Ryan's ascent into semi-greatness leaves something of a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth as it signals the dawn of a new era in my life in which I must, if not like, then at least amiably tolerate, the New England Patriots. I promised a friend you see, that if Matt Ryan threw for over 3,000 yards in his rookie year, I would help her cheer those darned Patriots in every game that wasn't against Atlanta. Ryan's from Boston College, ya know. Aside from that, I couldn't be happier having him calling signals for my boys in black-and-red. Seeing Ryan under center is somewhat reminiscent of seeing (dare I say it?) Tom Brady taking snaps. It just feels right. With 3,400 yards, 16 TD's, and 1 playoff visit under his belt, the stars seem aligned for Matt Ryan to lead his team out of mediocrity, if not notoriety, and onto the field for victory. After victory. After victory. About time. Just one thing Matt: please don't ever throw the ball to Michael Turner.

Michael Turner- 1,700 yards, 4.5 yards-per-carry, and more touchdowns than his quarterback (17). it's true what they say, the numbers don't tell the whole story, but they never, ever lie. In the case of the proverbial bridesmaid finally becoming the bride, Michael Turner has become. And the bloom is off the rose for all defensive coordinators in the NFC. With a bruising downhill approach, and mind-bottling (yes, I said "bottilng") breakaway speed, the "Burner" appears destined to forge his own legacy after two seasons in the shade of LT's. Although the output kind of scares me, 376 carries in his first year at starter, Turner has shown thus far to be more than capable of carrying the team on his shoulder pads while the veterans sync-up, and the rookies develop. Just one thing Mike: please don't ever let Matt Ryan throw you the ball.

Roddy White- Next on our list of yes-I-cans is Roddy White, the white-hot Pro Bowl wideout entering his 4th season out of UAB. Atlanta's Pro Bowl wide reciever. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it? With nearly 1,400 yards from 88 receptions, along with the occasional really-cool backflip, White has captured the hearts of fans along with the respect of opposing secondaries in his '08 campaign to become a legitimate goto receiver.

Jerious Norwood- Finally. Finally. Finally, I get to associate Norwood with a playoff team. In my ever-humble opinion, No one on Atlanta's roster deserves it more. For many football afficionados, Jerious Norwood passes the talent and skill-set to be a full-time starter on any one of at least a dozen other squads in th NFL. Never the bride. Sound familiar? He breaks, he runs, he catches, he scores, he puree's...ok, I lied about that last part, but still pretty impressive, right? Ironically enough, all that just makes me wish for another solid back to play behind Michael Turner. All of Norwood's numbers come with opposing defenses set and ready for him, what could he accomplish with defenses not ready? Beside, how great would it feel to know that a talent like Norwood is sitting on the bench, fresh legs and all, ready to jump in and change the tempo for the whole game at any given time? Beside, I think it would be kind of nice if he didn't have so much responsibility all the time. he also returns kicks, and quite well, ya know. Over 800 all-purpose yards, not counting kick returns, 6 TD's, and just over 5 yards-per-carry in his '08 campaign. Not bad for a bridesmaid.

To say that I've touched all the bases of Atlanta's potential for gridiron glory would be an understatement of epic proportions. I've merely scratched the offensive surface. There are other draftee's and free-agent acquisitions that will certainly play an integral role in Atlanta's semi-meteoric rise from coulda-been's to gonna be's But that's a story for another time, sports fans. So for now, let's kick back, get our popcorn ready, and enjoy what promises to be one helluve ride in '09.