Atlanta’s Falcons still the one


Julio Jones photo courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons steamrolled the NFC South in 2016 on the way to the Super Bowl. Listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network expect that steamroll to continue in 2017.

In our weekly poll, we asked our followers who was going to win the NFC South this season, and the Falcons received 60 percent of the vote. New Orleans was a distant second with 22 percent of the vote, followed by both Carolina and Tampa Bay with single-digit support.

The hosts of the Talk of Fame Network disagreed with the result. Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin both cast their votes for the Buccaneers, the only team in the NFC last season with a winning record (9-7) that failed to qualify for the playoffs. Clark Judge voted for Carolina.

“Since few teams seem to repeat in the highly-competitive NFC South,” Borges said, “I’m going to go with the Buccaneers. Young Jameis Winston seems ready to have a breakthrough year and their defense is improved enough to compete. So why not the Bucs?”

Well, maybe because the Falcons are loaded – talented enough to build a 28-3 third-quarter lead over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But Atlanta couldn’t hold on, falling to a late Tom Brady-led surge, 34-28.

But the Falcons return the reigning NFL MVP in quarterback Matt Ryan and the most explosive receiver in the NFL in Julio Jones. Devonta Freeman, a 1,000-yard rusher, complements the passing game.

But the Falcons needed to address the defense and did just that during the offseason, using a first-round draft pick on pass rusher Takk McKinley and wooing behemoth tackle Dontari Poe away from the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. Atlanta also used a second-round pick on run-stuffing linebacker Duke Riley and believe they now have a defense that can hold a 25-point Super Bowl lead.

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