Everyone knows that Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons bring the league’s most exciting brand of football to the field every Sunday. But it’s easy to miss a key fact in the highlight reels full of Vick’s Houdini-like escapes and line-blurring speed. The Falcons have a lot more in common with Vince Lombardi’s Packers of the bygone era of football than they do with today’s high-flying, pass-happy west coast teams. The architect of this refreshingly old school approach is offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, formerly of the Denver Broncos. Think smaller, quicker offensive linemen, sixth round picks rushing for 2,000 yards, winning Super Bowls, that sort of thing. It’s no coincidence that the Falcons are now the league’s dominant force in the running game. To be successful in the fantasy realm with players from the Atlanta Falcons, it helps to look beyond the Sportscenter moments and gain a better understanding of what really makes them tick. That’s where our trusty microscope comes in.
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)|
|Rushing Offense||209.0 (1)||6 (t2)|
|Passing Offense||119.2 (30)||4 (t18)|
|Rushing Defense||112.2 (22)||2 (t8)|
|Passing Defense||187.2 (9)||4 (t11)|
|9 takeaways (t6)
5 giveaways (t8)
+4 overall (5)
First in rushing and 30th in passing; Lombardi would be proud. The Falcons currently lead the #2 rushing team, the Chargers, by a whopping 50.8 yards/game. Let that sink in for a moment. Still think the coaches are patiently trying to turn Michael Vick into a pocket passer? This is a team that comes out like a freight train, smacks you in the mouth, and then lines up to do it over and over again, all game long. On the rare occasions that they pass, it has been set up so well by the play action that it doesn’t really matter if Vick can read the defense or go quickly through his progression. And if he doesn’t like what he sees – zzzzip, see ya. There are very few defenses in the league that have the speed and discipline to match up with this team’s running game, and still keep tabs on Vick.
Average Opposing Defensive Ranking: 13.9
Things will not be as tough as the opponents’ ranking would indicate. The Patriots were already badly wounded, and now comes word that star defensive end Richard Seymour may not play. I realize the Patriots have overcome injuries before, but at some point it has to start affecting your team. I think a game against the NFL’s best rushing offense will be that point. The Saints, Jets, and Dolphins are still a little hard to figure out, but Miami in particular still has a great defense. With the exception of the Bucs, the rest of the schedule is not quite a cakewalk, but very beatable. Matchups aren’t much of a concern here anyway, since the guys who should be starting on your fantasy team are pretty clear-cut.
Justin Griffith (FB)
If you choose to draft Michael Vick for your fantasy team, understand one thing right up front – you are not really drafting a QB. You are drafting the 2nd RB in a RBBC system, plus a few passing yards. There is no value at WR on the Falcons. This is a team that cut Peerless Price so they could hand the top receiving position to a rookie, Michael Jenkins. Jenkins is backed up by second-rate journeymen Dez White, Brian Finneran, and Jerome Pathon. Was J.J. Stokes unavailable? For fantasy purposes, their top receiver is actually tight end Alge Crumpler. Warrick Dunn is thrilling fantasy owners who selected him in the middle rounds after the so-called “studs” were long gone. T.J. Duckett has scored a touchdown in every game this year, and his carries are steadily increasing. He’s not the kind of back that will explode for a huge day, but he is finally looking consistent enough to cover a bye or fill a RB3/Flex position. Todd Peterson is a decent waiver pickup at kicker – this style of offense produces a good amount of FG tries, and he has the advantage of a dome.
Next Week… I’ll get the microscope adjusted to high altitude and review the Denver Broncos.