The Mallards returned to the playoffs in 2011 after missing them during a fluky 2010. They were the only team to win double digit games last year and just barely held off the Dragons to earn the number one seed despite losing to them both times they played. Calvin Johnson broke the 100 point barrier, becoming just the 11th such WR in history, and closed out the season with a dominant run of 200 yard receiving games. Matt Ryan came in for a banged up Big Ben late in the season and really shined as the Falcons began to open up their playbook. Big things are expected of Ryan in 2012; with the group of WRs he has and the Falcons moving to a 3WR base formation, he shouldn't disappoint. The Mallards made it to their first ever Super Bowl, but were upended by the upstart Merry Men 67-51. The Mallards appear locked and loaded for another good run in the brutally competitive NFC.The cover of Madden 13? Yeah, that should end well.
Will a suspect group of RBs hold the Mallards back? After scoring 362 points in just 4 years, Michael Turner was shipped out of town, Steven Jackson is the NFL's active leader in carries, C.J. Spiller has been pushed back into a reserve role despite a terrific second half, James Starks will be lucky to make the Mallards, and Stevan Ridley will impress the coaches one moment and then cough up the ball in practice the next. All this adds up to a potential mess. In an ideal world, Jackson would finally have his first 80 point season, Spiller would have a break out season, and Ridley would fill the BGE roll in New England. The Mallards are really depending on a couple of these situations to pan out or they will be trotting out a run and shoot lineup.
Player to Watch
Randall Cobb, WR: Coaches and players have been gushing about Cobb all off-season and stated that he is just too talented to keep off the field. Cobb still has a couple players ahead of him on the depth chart but he will likely see his snaps increase every week as he proves to be a perfect fit whether in the slot or on the outside. In the pass heavy Green Bay offense, Cobb could be one of this year's breakout stars.
Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Stevan Ridley, Calvin Johnson, Miles Austin, Draft Pick, Mason Crosby, Marques Colston
The Mallards should have no problem winning another bunch of games in 2012, but whether they win enough to make the playoffs in what is shaping up to be a very top heavy conference is hard to say. Ryan and Johnson are poised for monster seasons, Jackson and Austin are looking to bounce back, and Colston, Crabtree and Cobb should all be steady contributors. Big Ben could be moved to find just the right piece to compliment this lineup and the trade of Turner to move up in the draft could prove fruitful. Ultimately, the Mallards sneak into the playoffs as the wild card in the NFC.
9-4; 689 Points; 2nd Place NFC East