Thorn In The Side: Why the Atlanta Falcons May Keep New Orleans Saints at Bay

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes upfield past London Fletcher #59 of the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Finally, the hype has died down.  New Orleans has won the Super Bowl, Brett Favre is playing retirement games already, and the NFL is taking a much deserved rest from mainstream media. 

With the draft still on the horizon, and many teams vying for the top spot and top contenders in April, people seem to be forgetting the "sleeper" teams of 2010, and are merely shifting their focus to more important matters such as the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams.

If only I had a time machine, then I could go back six months and tell you why I took Atlanta to win the NFC South, and I could show you why I never thought the New Orleans Saints would prove themselves in a conference that is about as tough as a $2 steak. 

Unfortunately though, I don't have a time machine, and my predictions couldn't have been more wrong. 

But what about 2010?  Can the Atlanta Falcons get back on track from where they so positively exited 2008?

Of course they can.

In a division that is always going to rely on a solid run game, the Atlanta Falcons already have the advantage.  As hard as it is for me to write this, I honestly think the Atlanta Falcons have more talent than the New Orleans Saints, at least on paper. 

Think about it, a rookie of the year quarterback in 2008, one of the greatest rushers in the game today with Michael Turner and a solid wide receiver core with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. Yes, they aren't exactly the 1990's Dallas Cowboys, but they can get the job done when it counts.

One thing the Falcons lacked in 2009 was a solid defense.  Penalties, missed chances, and a lack of pass rush, cost Atlanta in games where a bit of defensive pressures made the difference between a win and a loss.  With that said, the defense is an area that Atlanta are sure to focus on in this year's NFL Draft, and if they play their cards right, they could clean up fairly well.

However, with all this said and nothing being done just yet, where does that rank the Atlanta Falcons in terms of positioning in the NFC South?  Well it's pretty easy, at the moment Atlanta is in a solid second, right behind New Orleans and right in front of Carolina

Give Atlanta the chance, and a healthy season, there is no doubt in my mind that we can see the explosive football that we expected last season, but didn't get the opportunity to see. 

With Michael Turner expected to be 100 percent upon his return, and providing no offseason squabbles and mix-ups, Atlanta is in firm control of their own destiny in 2010. 

All that needs to happen now is some solid coaching, and a few great draft picks.  All of which head coach Mike Smith is quite capable of.