The NFL season is about to begin (unless you’re a Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants fan), and I have elevated expectations for my two teams yet there’s an unshakeable nagging worry with both of them.

First off, some logic. There are 32 NFL teams. Chances are yours won’t win the big dance which means you’re likely going to experience the feeling of defeat early on or a heartbreaking loss shortly thereafter. Don’t get too mad over sports my friends. The athletes don’t know you nor give a crap about you or your life, so don’t ruin your belongings or relationships or reputation over something so trivial.

On that note, if the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons both lose today I’m sobbing into my brown cat, Noah because he’s the fat one. The Bills should destroy the Jets and the Falcons should take care of the Chiefs.

Beyond today, both the Bills and Falcons will improve on what they accomplished last season, but there are still relevant worries. For the Bills the most prominent is history. Every season the franchise pulls a Star Wars voodoo move, successfully instilling a sense of false hope in its fan base in lieu of complete befuddlement seasons prior — and the first half of the season is usually entertaining with the team hot out of the gate. Then they implode in the most mind numbing, hair pulling, mouth agape ways while all your buddies pat your back with a look of “aww, sorry man” in their Steelers and Patriots faces. The Buffalo Bills are the kid who has all the heart but, well, sorry kid — you can’t cut it with the big boys.

As for the Falcons, this is Matt Ryan’s year. I mean that in the sense if he doesn’t go deep into the post season the Falcons should begin to consider other options as insurance. Matt Ryan is awesome. He’s the best QB the Atlanta Falcons franchise has had in its 46 year history. He has not won a playoff game in his NFL career. This is his fifth season so it needs to happen now with all the pieces on the table — they need to be utilized effectively. I have faith and think the Falcons have a solid chance at making the NFC Championship game in 2012. Unfortunately, home field advantage has been anything but for them in the post season and the road to the Super Bowl will likely lie in the strongest of hostile territory. The last two years the Falcons were totally obliterated by the eventual Super Bowl Champions, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great season to watch for all teams involved. For the first time it truly feels like every franchise has a story line going on worth talking about.

Go Bills! Go Falcons!

*To all the Europeans who clicked this link expecting something else — I apologize.

**Photos from &

Yes, I know a dolphin is a mammal. 

That must be the reason why no fish were squished this past Sunday by the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills (5-2) lost their first divisional game on Sunday against long time rival quarterback, Chad Pennington and his Miami Dolphins (3-4).

To be painfully blunt, the Bills looked pathetic. After keeping the NFL’s highest powered offense under control last week in the San Diego Chargers, week eight’s match-up against the rebuilding Miami Dolphins should not have concluded as a 16-25 loss.

But it did. Onto the report card:

Best Performance in a Losing Effort: Rian Lindell. He kicked three field goals (19, 43, 47) yesterday. Good for him for keeping the Bills in the game for awhile.

Biggest Head Scratcher Award: Why do the Bills always fake the blitz? The linebackers will line up as if they’re going to come at the QB, but then drop back into the zone once the ball is snapped. When the Bills drop back and allow talented QB’s to complete quick passes, it’s reflective of the style of Trent Edwards and how he succeeds against defenses. The Bills defense has played this way all season long, most specifically this week against Miami and the previous two games against San Diego and Arizona. The Cardinals amassed 250 yards passing and 2 TD’s, the Chargers 208 passing yards and 2 TD’s, and the Dolphins 314 passing yards with 1 TD against a soft Bills defense. Could these stats be worse? Of course. However, everything isn’t as it appears on paper. In watching these games it is obvious that when the Bills do blitz, they usually come up with a big play. The Bills need to change their unaggressive style immediately and attack the opposing team’s quarterback. The four man rush does not work. 

‘Coolest’ Stat: In 108 straight games the Buffalo Bills had not blocked a field goal. That is the longest streak in the NFL, and it was snapped Sunday when Langston Walker blocked a 46 yard Dan Carpenter field goal attempt late in the second quarter. Unfortunately that’s the best stat of the game for the Bills.

Lack of Common Sense Award: Goes to BIlls CB Terrence McGee and head coach Dick Jauron. McGee was obviously not 100% healthy yet as he got burned by Ted Ginn Jr. all day long. Why didn’t he say to Coach Dick Jauron he wasn’t ready to play? Why didn’t Jauron pull McGee? Is there that little faith in rookie CB Leodis McKelvin? 

Seriously!? Award: This one goes to Miami WR Ted Ginn Jr. who had a career high day, pulling in 7 receptions for 175 yards. Of course, he was paired up against a wounded Terrence McGee, making his life a lot easier. But still, he was allowed 175 freakin’ receiving yards! This guy isn’t Randy Moss or Terrell Owens for poop’s sake, he’s Ted Ginn… Junior. The Bills allowed this no name to amass 175 yards!? Seriously!? 

Face the Facts: When the Buffalo special teams unit performs, the Bills have a better chance of wining. In this game the Bills had 0 punt return yards and a mere 19.6 yard average on kick-off returns. Last week against San Diego the Bills averaged 5 yards per punt return and only 19.3 yards per kick-off return. In week 5 against Arizona, Buffalo averaged 17 yards per punt return (there were only two) but a mere 20.9 yards per kick-off return. Compare that to an average of 54 yards per punt return along with a 26.5 yard return average on kick-offs in week one against the Seattle Seahawks, and a week four punt return average of 15.6 yards paired with a kick-off return average of 32.3 yards against the Rams, and my point becomes clear; This is not the special teams unit we are accustomed to seeing. Teams have opted to strip the special teams advantage away from the Bills by not kicking to Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin. When this element of the game is taken away from Buffalo, the team struggles. And it hurts.

NOOOOO!! Moment: When Bills WR Josh Reed went out of the game with a sprained achilles. Dick Jauron has stated that he wants to take the time in allowing Reed to recover and does not wish to take any chances. Wonderful. Hopefully rookie WR James Hardy will step it up. So far he has been less than average this season having only 7 receptions for 66 yards and a TD accompanied by a whole mess of drops. 

Most Drunk Award: Goes to Bills QB Trent Edwards. After the Dolphins went up 20-16 early in the fourth quarter, the camera panned to the Bills sideline. There, Edwards was seen sitting alone on the bench with a defeated, frustrated look on his face. This pissed me off. In weeks before when the Bills were down, Edwards could be seen on the sideline amping up his team, itching to get back on the field to regain the lead. Need I remind the reading audience of the Bills 4th quarter come backs against Jacksonville, Oakland, and St. Louis? No? Well, maybe I should have reminded Trent. At this point the Bills were only down by four points with nearly an entire quarter left to play. Yet, here is our star quarterback looking as if the game is already over. I don’t like that. That is the behavior J.P. Losman was privy to. Trent Edwards is supposed to be a leader. So lead Trent. 

That’s Weird Award: Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Trent Edwards both threw simultaneous interceptions. While watching the Bills game on TV and following the Falcons game on’s live feed, I witnessed this awful stat take place. Edwards threw his pick at exactly the 15:00 mark of the 4th quarter, and Ryan tossed his turnover at 2:20 left in the third against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both QB’s lost their games.

It’s About Damn Time Award: This was the first game in which Trent Edwards looked like a rookie. Edwards was 21/25 with 227 yards, a pick, 0 TD’s, 2 fumbles, and a safety. Yikes. Here’s to rebounding in week nine…

What The Hell Do You Get Paid For Award: Congratulations Robert Royal! I commented positively about his game play in week 1 against Seattle, as well as his pre-season play. Thank you Robert for making me eat my words. In this game he had three drops and a fumble which ended any Bills hopes of a comeback. Oh yeah, Royal did have two catches for 26 yards… horray.

Final Word: I could continue with this weeks report card, but it’s too depressing. When the 2008 NFL season is in the books, this game has the potential to be looked back upon as a pivotal turning point for both the Bills and the Dolphins. Miami looked very impressive on Sunday, and this could be the win they needed to steer their season in the right direction. More importantly, this game has the potential to knock the Bills down a peg. Next week Buffalo takes on the Jets at home which is followed by a road trip to New England. That’s three divisional games in a row and with this loss, the Bills have allotted themselves no margin for error. The AFC East race for first place is a tight one with the Bills and Patriots at 5-2, the Jets at 4-3 and the Dolphins at 3-4. Only time will tell how all of this will play out, but it continues next week at Ralph Wilson Stadium.


After yesterday’s thrilling 22-20 home win against the 3-3 Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons (4-2) find themselves in a three way tie for the first seed in the NFC South. 

Best Performance in a Losing Effort: The Bears run defense. They looked amazing, holding the the best running back in the NFL, Michael Turner, to a mere 54 yards on the ground. By the end of the day, the Bears defensive unit had allowed a total of only 75 yards rushing. That’s impressive considering how Atlanta prides themselves on being a rushing team.

Most Affectionate Award: When Matt Ryan leapt into the arms of head coach Mike Smith after the victory, straddling him with all his might… yep.

Biggest Head Scratcher: Why Falcons offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, called a bunched slant route to WR Roddy White twice in a row. The first time the call worked but there was a penalty that negated the play, which was unfortunate as White had nothing but daylight in front of him. Still, I disagree with the call to run the exact same play again, especially after showing the defense where the ball was most likely going to go. Come on Mike, enough with the silly mularkey.

Most Drunk Award: All the Chicago Bears fans who made it out to the Georgia Dome. On TV it sounded like the 12th man were all from Chicago as the Falcons faced a lot of noise on 3rd down in their home dome. Plus, when Chicago scored the cheers echoed throughout the space. Nice showing Bears fans, and enjoy the flight back home!

Pat on the Back Award: This one goes to Falcons WR Brian Finneran. At one time he was one of Atlanta’s top receivers, but injuries over the past two seasons have kept him out of the lineup. So far this year Finneran has essentially been a non factor with only five catches (three of them in this game), but I liked the guy when he was healthy and it’s nice to see him back on the field. Besides, I missed the color guys not being able to pronounce his name. To quote one of Fox’s announcers during the game, “Brian Finnenan, Finneran, making the catch.” Hilarious.

-Performance Grades:

A+: QB Matt Ryan. The guy looked like a verteran out there, calling audibles and vocally leading his team on drives. The rookie’s stats were 22/30 for 301 yards and a TD, marking this Ryan’s first career 300+ yard game. The guy is a class act, showing poise and confidence in the pocket. With six seconds left on the game clock, his 26 yard pass to Michael Jenkins which set up the game winning field goal was one of the most brilliant plays I’ve seen come out of Atlanta in over a year. Here’s an interesting fact; since 1998 Ryan is the only rookie QB to go 4-2. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Kyle Orton.

A-: The Atlanta wide receivers. I suppose the critics were right; Mike Vick could run all day long, but couldn’t throw an accurate pass worth betting a dog on (yeah, I went there). In his last season with the Falcons in 2006 Vick had a total of 2,474 yards passing whereas Ryan has amassed 1,164 passing yards in a mere six games this season. Ryan is producing where Mike Vick couldn’t with essentially the same wide receiving core in Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, and even Brian Finneran. Add to the fact that TE Alge Crumpler is no longer part of the team, and it goes to show how the Falcons WR’s have stepped up their game. They’re making themselves look good by coming up with the big plays and by doing something as simple as holding onto the ball. Drops plagued both White and Jenkins early on in their careers, but it seems like that may be a thing of the past. 

B+: Jamaal Anderson. The Falcons first round draft choice of last season was all over the Chicago offense, making plays in the backfield, batting balls, netting four tackles and the first sack of his career. You have to love his name too as there’s a lot of history there. If he ever returns a fumble or a pick for a TD, he’d better dance ‘The Dirty Bird’.

B: The rest of the Falcons defense. Talk about bend but don’t break. While giving up a total of 365 yards, the Falcons defense allowed only 79 yards rushing and held the Bears from scoring on three of their four first half possessions. While slipping in the second half of the game, they stood tall when they needed to, stopping the Bears on a 4th and goal with 8 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. Rookie rusher Matt Forte tried to jump over the pile for the score, but the Falcons D held their ground, stuffing Forte before he could propel himself forward. The fans in the Dome went nuts, and so did I.

C: The Falcons red zone offense. The offense would make awesome plays and long drives to march down field into scoring range but were unable to come away with 7 points until the fourth quarter. This nearly came back to bite the young Falcons squad, and their lack of productivity in the red zone needs to change if Atlanta wants to make a serious run at post season play.

NOOOOO!! Moment: When (usually) money kicker Jason Elam shanked a 33 yard field goal try with 2:50 left in the game, which would have put the Falcons up by two scores. Atlanta then had to turn the ball over to the Bears who scored a TD, taking the lead 20-19 with a mere 11 ticks of the clock remaining. Luckily though, Elam redeemed himself by making the game winning 48 yard kick with one second remaining. Make no doubt about it, Elam needs to buy Matt Ryan, Michael Jenkins, and the clock operator drinks for the rest of the season. 

Coolest Stat: The Falcons are 4-2 and have already matched their number of wins from last season when they went 4-12.

Biggest Hit: When Atlanta’s Jason Snelling nailed Devin Hester flat on his ass on the opening kickoff of the second half. The dude literally took a seat and it was awesome.

Bet You Didn’t Know: That six Falcons rookies started in today’s game and all of them contributed to the teams win. They are: 1) QB Matt Ryan. 2) OT Sam Baker who did an excellent job protecting Ryan. 3) WR Harry Douglas (sporting Alge Crumpler’s #83) who had 5 receptions for 96 yards. 4) MLB Curtis Lofton who had 6 solo tackles and 1 assisted tackle. 5) CB Chevis Jackson who registered 3 tackles. 6) DE Kroy Biermann who made a tackle. Nice work rookies.

So That’s Weird: One of the Falcons fight songs is the same that is played when the Minnesota Wild score a goal.

Most Useless Fact of the Day: Falcons coach Mike Smith is the brother in law of one of the Fox color guys as they are both married to sisters. What’s that? You could give a crap? Yeah, so could I yet they wouldn’t stop talking about it all afternoon. My ears are still bleeding.

Most Quotable: “Warner very nearly, got it from behind.” – Fox sports color guy. I know, I know; this quote isn’t from the Falcons/Bears game, but from the Dallas Cowboys/Arizona Cardinals game. Even so, it was too hilarious to leave unmentioned.

The Final Word: The Falcons have found themselves to be in a great spot at this point in the season with a 4-2 record, tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers for first place in the NFC South. They remind me of this years Buffalo Bills team in that they are young squad with even younger starting QBs, nobody predicted them to go anywhere, and they are finding ways to win. Critics were unsure about the Falcons as their first two victories were against weak opponents (Lions, Chiefs), but after solid wins against two of the NFC’s elite in the Packers and Bears, the Atlanta Falcons should be taken seriously. Next up Atlanta travels to Philadelphia, taking on the Eagles in week eight. With a bye this coming week, the Dirty Birds need to ride out their current high and continue to erase memories of a time before Matt Ryan. 

Picking 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft served the Atlanta Falcons well.

Even before the draft began, there was speculation over whether or not the Falcons would select the top rated QB in the draft: Matt Ryan from Boston College. The Baltimore Ravens were also in the hunt for the QB and there was ‘talk’ that the Falcons may trade with the Ravens for the pick. Luckily, that didn’t happen as Atlanta did go with Ryan for the 3rd overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Ryan, the 2007 ACC Player of the Year, had a college average of throwing 322.1 yards per game, which should excite Falcons Nation. An aspect about Ryan’s game that is commendable is his ability to read defenses. Prior to the draft, Ryan was briefed by the Atlanta coaching staff on specific plays in the Falcons play book. When debriefed, Ryan was able to flawlessly diagram the plays he studied. He has the ability to turn a broken play into a big play with his arm and accuracy; Something that the former face of the franchise, Michael Vick, could only do with his feet. After being drafted, the rookie’s first words were, “I’m just pumped to be a Falcon!” When a reporter asked him what was the first thing that came to mind when he heard the word ‘Atlanta’, Ryan responded with “winning games.”

That’s a good answer.

This move by the Falcons brass has, to many fans, slammed the door shut on the Michael Vick era. This team now belongs to the rookie who has potential, a strong arm, and accuracy. Accuracy being something that Vick severely lacked during his tenure with the Falcons. On paper, the only thing Vick clearly trumps Ryan on is his ability to scramble. Matt Ryan has maneuverability, but he is no Michael Vick. Regardless, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is eager to assign a new face to his franchise, seemingly eliminating any thought that Vick may once again wear the red, black, and white. With the house cleaning of Vick-Era veterans (Crumpler, Hall, Dunn, Duckett, Kerney, etc.) the Falcons seem to be turning over a new leaf, desperately trying to find a new identity both in the locker room and for their fan base. This seems to have been accomplished by the drafting of Matt Ryan.

Still, declaring Vick’s tenure with the Falcons as definitely a thing of the past may be a bit premature.

Ryan threw 19 interceptions last season at Boston College, and the defense only gets tougher in the NFL. As proved by Ryan’s new teammate, Joey Harrington, 3rd pick QB’s in the first round don’t always turn out the way one would hope. Falcons nation needs to keep in mind that Michael Vick, a former first round pick as well, can potentially return to the NFL for the 2010 season. If Ryan does falter, the Falcons would be right back where they started; in need of a franchise QB and indecisive about what to do with Vick. Essentially, Number Seven’s future is in the hands of Matt Ryan and how well he plays.

Only time will tell.

Aside from Ryan the Falcons didn’t make much noise in the draft. They traded up in the first round with the Washington Redskins in order to pick OT Sam Baker (USC) with the 21st overall selection. When the announcement was made that the Falcons had traded up for this pick, I was anticipating them to select a WR. The fact that they didn’t wasn’t a surprise, as Atlanta’s last two first round WR selections have been busts; 2004 Michael Jenkins (pick #29) and 2005 Roddy White (pick #27 ). Although in all fairness, White did have the best season of his career in 2007 and he seems to finally be coming around. Still, the selection of Baker at #21 was an odd move by Atlanta, one which I was skeptical about at first. Trading up to take Baker doesn’t look stupendous on paper, but the Falcons need help on the O line. With a new QB spearheading the organization, I can understand why immediate protection of the play caller became a necessity. Also, five OT’s were selected before Baker, so Atlanta wanted to pick from the better players available at the position. The fact that division rival, Carolina Panthers, selected OT Jeff Otah at #19 probably made the need to select an offensive lineman all the more immediate for Atlanta. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Baker has been struggling with injuries since the beginning of his senior season, but when he is healthy he is a dominant pass blocker.

In the second round, the Falcons had only one pick (#37) with which they used on LB Curtis Lofton (Oklahoma). With the aging of both Lawyer Milloy and Keith Brooking, help at Linebacker has become a necessity for the Dirty Birds. Lofton has the ability to make the big, hard hit on defense, and he has decent ball handling skills, which is a bonus. Even so, the Atlanta coaching staff needs to help him develop in order for him to be effective come September.

Atlanta had three picks in the third round (#68, #84, #98 ) with which they selected CB Chevis Jackson (LSU), WR Harry Douglas (Louisville), and S Thomas DeCoud (California). Jackson is a physical player, but no DeAngelo Hall. Lucklily for everyone associated with the Falcons, Jackson isn’t like DeAngelo Hall in other aspects as well, such as his mouth and attitude. Harry Douglas was a selection the Falcons had to make as they need help in the WR department. He’s small, and where he lacks in quickness he makes up for in agility. This skill will help him become a great route runner; Something that an accurate QB, like Ryan, can take full advantage of. Douglas can have an early impact on the team. The only WR that has a comfortable spot on the Falcons roster is Roddy White, and even he isn’t the #1 WR Atlanta wants him to be. Thomas DeCoud seems to be more of a special teams acquisition, as opposed to his signature position of Safety, in that he has blocked a number of kicks in his career and is good on kick coverage.

The Falcons were idle in the fourth round and had two picks in the fifth round. With picks #138 and #154 they selected two OLB: Robert James (Arizona State) and Kroy Biermann (Montana). I don’t know much about either, so I won’t comment on them, but picking two OLB’s back to back is an interesting move. As mentioned before, the Falcons do need depth at this position with current Linebackers Lawyer Milloy and Keith Brooking not getting any younger. With their lone pick in the 6th Round at #172, the birds took RB Thomas Brown (Gerogia). Brown is a small RB who has the potential to slip by linebackers- Similar to former RB Warrick Dunn’s style of play. This style coming in handy when a huge clump of bodies forms on the ball carrier, and then out squeaks the small sized RB! Brown’s official status on the team will no doubt be behind that of existing RB’s Jerious Norwood and new acquisition Michel Turner. To complete the draft, Atlanta selected with the 212th pick, CB Wilrey Fontenot (Arizona) and at #232, TE Keith Zinger (LSU). I don’t know much about these guys, but I hope Zinger develops into a useful player. With the departure of Alge Crumpler, the Falcons desperately need a tight end. Although, to hope for a seventh round pick to develop into a super star is a shot in the dark.

Overall I was pleased with the selections the Falcons made in this years draft. I only hope that Matt Ryan becomes the player Falcons Nation wants him to be; The new face of the franchise who brings home a Championship.

We shall see.