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Anthony Stalter
National Blogger

Anthony Stalter

Senior Sports Editor for The Scores Report

Bring on the Bird Bowl

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Considering it's not even August yet, some may think that making a prediction for this year's Super Bowl is a bit absurd. But given how Brett Favre and Brad Childress are playing a rousing game of, "Who can be more annoying?" (they're both winning, by the way), anything is better than discussing "Favre Watch 2010."

All right, let's get nasty. Colts vs. Saints? Too easy, plus it's more likely that George Lopez will make you laugh during one of his shows than it is for a team in the NFC to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances these days.

Pass.

The Jets have become the unofficial chic pick this season, which means they'll probably finish 2-14. Every year the media has a darling and every year that team falls into a giant suckhole filled with jinx.

Pass.

Like most folks, I could make a case for the Colts, Saints, Jets, Cowboys, Chargers, Packers or Vikings to make Super Bowl runs. They're all loaded with talent and they're all logical choices. I also think the Dolphins, Texans, Giants and 49ers are teams that should be dramatically improved this year and would be intriguing choices.

But in the end, there's something about the Ravens and Falcons that light my fire and thus, they are my official late July Super Bowl picks.

Here are some similarities between the two teams that I find interesting:

The Quarterbacks
Both Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are entering their third years, which is generally the time in young players' careers that things really start to click. Both of these signal callers are dedicated to their craft, are in systems that suit their talents, and each has a great supporting cast.

Missing Pieces
Ozzie Newsome knew that the only way Flacco could take the Ravens to the next level was to get him a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Some believe Anquan Boldin has lost a step over the years, but even if that's the case he won't need to be a speed demon in order to be productive in Baltimore. As long as he can keep the chains moving on third downs and make the tough receptions over the middle, then he'll be successful...Entering the offseason, the Falcons' biggest weakness was the cornerback position. That's why they broke the bank to sign Dunta Robinson in early March. Granted, he's coming off a down year, but he represents a massive upgrade over Chris Houston (who was traded to Detroit) and brings leadership to a young defense.

Running Games
Ray Rice emerged as one of the most productive backs in the NFL last season and word out of Baltimore is that he's been one of the hardest workers for the Ravens this offseason. The Falcons have their own workhorse in Michael Turner, who is said to be in the best shape of his career following an injury-plagued 2009 campaign. Both teams have a ton of depth at the running back position in Willis McGahee (BAL), Jason Snelling (ATL) and Jerious Norwood (ATL), as well as outstanding fullbacks in Ovie Mughelli (ATL) and Le'Ron McClain (BAL). Teams that can run the football in the NFL win and both of these teams can do just that.

Underrated Defensive Players
Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs get most of the attention in Baltimore, but Jarrett Johnson, Tom Zbikowski and Lardarius Webb are three players who could play a significant role in getting Baltimore deep into the postseason this year. The same goes for guys like Jonathan Babineaux, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann and Curtis Lofton (who is quickly becoming a star at the MLB position) for the Falcons. That said, it wouldn't hurt if stars like Suggs and John Abraham picked up their games after down years.

Now, what do these similarities have to do with the Ravens and Falcons making Super Bowl runs this year? Everything or nothing depending on how you look at it. But the point is that these teams are both loaded with talent, upgraded their rosters in the offseason and have addressed weaknesses that held them back in '09. Do they still have areas of concern? Without a doubt - but so does every other team at this point in the year. If both teams can stay healthy, overachieve in some areas and have a little luck, then there's no reason they can't make it to the big dance in Dallas next February.

And if you're looking for an actual prediction, then let's go with: Falcons 34, Ravens 31.

Matt Ryan runs the no-huddle to perfection with under two minutes remaining in the fourth and finds Tony Gonzalez in the back of the end zone for the win.

By Anthony Stalter  |  July 28, 2010; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Atlanta Falcons , Baltimore Ravens , NFL , Playoffs , Super Bowl Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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It's nice to see some people aren't underestimating the Falcons. They are really putting something together down there in Atlanta. Matt Ryan is going to be taking a big leap this year. Michael Turner will be back better than ever, the D is healthy, and the additions of Dunta Robinson and Sean Weatherspoon should remedy their issues in coverage. The Ain'ts better get their paper sacks ready.

The AFC is a toss up between the Jets and the Ravens. I'm not sure the Ravens secondary has been addressed, and this pre-season doesn't seem to be going their way with Fabian Washington, Ed Reed, Sergio Kindle's injuries, and Mt. Cody's apparent lack of conditioning.

The Jets will be the team to beat, great running game, and near unstoppable D on paper. It all rests on Sanchez's shoulders.

Posted by: theangryliberal | July 29, 2010 2:10 AM

BALTIMORE RADIO REQUEST

Hey Anthony this is Ryan Chell from WNST Radio in Baltimore. We would love to get you on the air to talk about your work here. And it looks like your website is also a nice compilation of info as well. If you would like an opportunity to plug either one, we would be more than happy to accommodate that. If interested, email me at ryan@wnst.net or give me a call 410-790-4408 if you're interested.

Posted by: ryanwnst | July 29, 2010 10:09 AM

"It all rests on Sanchez's shoulders"

This is why they won't win. Sanchez shows flashes of greatness, but manages to have horrendous interception numbers in the process. Sure he can improve, but when paired with a #1 defense and a great running offense all he needs to do is manage the game. He got an F in 2009 for game management. You can't change a gunslinger - and they either have it (Favre) or they dont (Cutler).

Posted by: trident420 | July 29, 2010 1:06 PM

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