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Atlanta looking to defend its NFC South title

As the NFL season approaches, questions arise about the Atlanta Falcons after they trounced the rest of the NFC South winning the division by six games last season.

The Falcons finished last season with a regular season record of 13-3 and were the favorites when they entered the postseason.

Behind the Falcons, there was a tie for second between three teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers all with subpar 7-9 records.

However, it does not look as if it will be a walk in the park this season for the Falcons.

Last season quarterback Matt Ryan had a number of options to go to on offense, which helped the offense turn into one of the best aerial attacks in the league. Through the air, Ryan averaged just less than 282 yards a game.

Three receivers combined for over 3,479 yards last season and 25 touchdowns. Nevertheless, Atlanta lost in the NFC Championship game to San Francisco.

Offensively during the offseason, the Falcons let Michael Turner their running back go and signed veteran Steven Jackson.

On defense the Falcons let John Abraham at defensive end go, but picked up Osi Umenyiora from the New York Giants.

The Falcons also tried to plug a hole in the defensive secondary by taking Demond Trufant from the Washington Huskies with the 22nd pick overall in the NFL Draft.

If Atlanta hopes to win the division again and eventually reach the Super Bowl, they will have to balance their attack more on offense. Last season they ran the ball just 24 times per game while throwing it 38 times.

Last season the Falcons were 29th in the league in rushing and averaged only 87 yards a game. That might change with the addition of Jackson, as he has had over 235 attempts per season since 2007 and at least 1,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons with the Rams.

Jackson is very durable. He missed just two games for the Rams since 2009 after sitting out 11 from 2004 to 2008.

Regardless of how well Jackson runs for the Falcons, they remain a passing team. With White and Jones on the outside, they are both dynamic and consistent, with White catching at least 85 receptions for more than 1,100 yards each season since 2008.

Defense is the weaker side for the Falcons. They allowed 365 yards a game to opposing offenses but seemed to bend and not break.

Even though they gave up large chunks of yardage, opponents only averaged 19 points per game against them. Part of that was due to Atlanta having 31 takeaways during the regular season.

Asante Samuel played well during his first season at corner with Atlanta to reestablish himself as a top corner in the league. With the draft of Trufant and Thomas Decoud returning at safety, the secondary should improve.

Atlanta had 29 sacks a year ago, but 10 left with Abraham and Umenyiora only had six for New York.

Nevertheless, the Falcons should rise to the top again and win the NFC South just not be six games, maybe by just two or three.

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