One of the best series that we get to do during the season is the Five Questions exchange with our fellow SBN football blogs. We hooked up with Dave Choate, El Presidente at The Falcoholic, for a discussion on this weekend's game versus Atlanta. Click here for their version of this post.
1- There will likely be a lot of rust to knock off in the first regular season game of 2011, especially considering the NFL labor issues kept players and coaches off the field as long as they did. What will potentially be the Falcons' rustiest areas of the offense and defense this weekend?
Dave: Gotta go with the ground game on offense. Not that Michael Turner needs a tune-up, but the offensive line has two new starters (right guard, center) and the Bears are stout up front.
On the defensive end, the secondary is always the question mark, even though it seems to get stronger by the year. I'll be interested to see how the Falcons fare early against Jay Cutler.
2- On the flip-side of the coin, the Falcons have a lot of talent on their roster, and should have very high expectations for 2011. From a performance standpoint, what will Falcons fans NOT have to worry about on opening day against the Bears?
Dave: I don't think there's any question that the passing game is in good shape. Roddy White runs excellent routes, Julio Jones already plays like a veteran and Harry Douglas looks scary out of the slot. My understanding is that your secondary isn't as fearsome as some, so I would expect the Falcons to exploit that.
Being a Falcons fan, I do worry about pretty much everything else.
3- Atlanta only had one pick in the first two rounds of this year's Draft, but that pick was a doozy (Julio Jones). All eyes will likely be on the rookie WR this season, but who are some sophomores that could make a significant impact?
Dave: Center Joe Hawley will have to. He's starting in at least this game while Todd McClure rests up after surgery. Hawley's a tough, smart guy, so he'll be worth watching against you guys.
Make sure you keep a close eye on Sean Weatherspoon, too. The Falcons' 2010 first round pick is an extremely athletic linebacker with virtually unlimited potential, if he's able to stay healthy. The Falcons are likely to have him use that athleticism to keep after Matt Forte, so you should get a good look at him.
Dominique Franks may have won the nickel corner job, too. He hits like a truck and shows promise in coverage, but is basically unproven. I expect a nice career out of him, but the Bears may pick on him a little bit should he get a lot of snaps.
4- There are some very familiar names when you look at the leadership of the Atlanta Falcons: Owner Arthur Blank, President Rich McKay, GM Thomas Dimitroff, and HC Mike Smith. How do Falcons fans feel about that group? What is their chemistry like?
Dave: The chemistry is fantastic. Arthur Blank has stepped back and let McKay run the team from a business perspective, with Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith making personnel decisions. That arrangement has been the most successful one the Falcons have ever had.
You really can't say enough about Smith and Dimitroff. The two of them are about as effective a tandem as you'll find amongst GMs and coaches.
5- Bears beat writer John 'Moon' Mullin tweeted earlier this week that the last time Atlanta won at Soldier Field, it was 1983, and Jay Cutler was 4 months old. How do you see this meeting turning out?
Dave: I'm sticking with my prediction of a narrow Falcons win, say 27-21. The Bears always play the team tough, and being at home gives you another leg up. In the end, though, I think the Falcons are bringing an incredible amount of talent to bear (ha!) and should be able to pull it out.
But as anyone at The Falcoholic can tell you, I've been wrong before. Here's to a great game!
Thanks, Dave! May your Falcons be both injury- and luck-free Sunday!