Welcome to the best NFL offseason series you'll ever read -- that is, if you're like me, and you want nothing more than the blissful lie that your team will be good in 2019. How Your Team Won Super Bowl 54 will take you through each NFL franchise with one goal in mind: convincing you that there's at least one universe in which Your Team wins it all. I'm Doctor Strange, you're Tony Stark, the Avengers are Your Team, Thanos is...Bill Belichick? I've lost the metaphor.
One thing's for sure:
You'll die in the end. Your Team is going to win Super Bowl 54.
How Julio Jones gets better in the red zone
A list of things that Julio Jones is:
- Very big
- Strong, also
- Great leaper
- Cool one-handed catch purveyor
- Weirdly bad at scoring football points
This is not anything new. Julio had 8 touchdowns last season, which is a number he's hit 3 times: in 2011, his rookie year; 2015, and this past season. Only once has he surpassed this number, with a whopping 10 TDs in Year 2.
But the last three seasons have been 6, 3, and 8 -- for a grand total of 17 touchdowns. That's less than the combined total for his first 2 seasons: 18.
To put this into context, since 2016, Julio has the 4th-most targets among NFL wide receivers, the 6th-most receptions, the most yardage, and the 19th-most touchdowns. It's not a huge difference, but it's enough that it matters.
Julio is increasingly ineffective in the near red zone. Since 2016, he's been targeted 24 inside the opponent's 10, but has only caught 10 of those balls -- and only 5 for touchdowns!
It's interesting because, over the 2016 - 2018 time frame, Atlanta is 3rd in the league in plays run inside the opponent's 10, 2nd in passes attempted inside the 10, and 3rd in touchdowns scored -- so it's not like the team isn't often attempting the passes, or the whole team is bad at scoring tuddies. It's...just Julio.
Julio's lack of touchdown scoring prowess is well-documented by the fantasy community, and it circles back to an odd combination: he just doesn't seem to get a ton of targets inside the 10, and even when he does, a heroic receiver turns into a bit of a pumpkin inside the pylons.
That's the problem: here's the solution: Julio Jones sleeps in the red zone. He dyes his hair red, paints his nails red, and gives the car a new paint job: hot rod. He reads more books so that people can ask him "Hey Julio, which books have you read recently." Instead of dreading the return of the season, Julio should ready himself for redemption (that one's a stretch) with newly-bred confidence.
Paint the town red on Julio's offseason. Full sensory overload. Play the Red Dead Redemption game on...whatever console that game is played on red-eye flights on a diet of Red Bulls and Red Vines. By golly, Julio is going to be so comfortable in red that Calvin Ridley will have the best sophomore season between the 20s of any receiver in history -- because Julio's not gonna know what to do in the green.
Which will be...good news?
How unnecessarily heartbreaking can we get?
Does it suck to be a Falcons fan? It's very difficult to say. Of course, you could consider the fact that they've never won a Super Bowl. Also worthy of consideration: the last time they were in the Super Bowl, they gave up a 25 point deficit when the next-biggest comeback was...10?
Note: Incidentally, the Julio Jones catch that should have iced the game remains one of the best catches I've ever seen.
Not that this heartbreak wasn't going to get big enough.
Now, the Falcons did make it back to the playoffs the next season -- they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Eagles and Nick Foles, in what ended up being the closest playoff game the Eagles played. That game included this catch, and this not-catch, by *checks notes* Julio Jones in the end zone.
Of course, before any of this, the Falcons lost in the 2012 conference championship to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers -- having lost in the Wild Card round in 2011 and the Divisional Round in 2010 -- despite holding a 17-0 lead.
Are you noticing a theme here? The playoffs do not treat Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons well.
"But Ben! Ben, what does a Falcons postseason look like without crushing defeat -- as must be the case when the Falcons win Super Bowl 54? Ben, how can this be?"
Let me enlighten you, oh distressed inquisitor. Heartbreaking regular-season.
Back-to-back divisional losses (Saints Week 13, Panthers Week 14) at home move the Falcons from first seed to sixth seed. Julio Jones drops what would have been a record 16-consecutive games with a receiving touchdown from inside the 10 in Week 17. The Jaguars mount a 35-point comeback in Week 16 when Nick Foles is benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. (I know he isn't on the team. I don't care.)
To come into the playoffs hot is to invite the skid. To come into the playoffs lukewarm is to invite the skid. But to come into the playoffs skidding -- now that's the kind of reverse psychology mumbo jumbo that Your Team Winning Super Bowl 54 is all about.
I want the Falcons to end the season on a 6-game losing streak and sneak into the playoffs at 10-6. I want the team celebrating the freakin' Vikings losing in Week 17 (again) to gift them the sixth seed. I want them desperate and pitiful.
Better then then later, if we're being honest.
The solution isn't improved play calling, better weapons, or even the law of averages, Atlanta. It's just crushingly low expectations.
How The Falcons Won Super Bowl 54
Ryan throws six touchdowns, the Falcons scoop-'n-score the opening kickoff, and the opposing Chargers all forget to wear pants in the first quarter. It's 37-3 at the half and Atlanta is sweating KFC-sized buckets. Rivers mounts a fourth-quarter comeback (aka: plays in the fourth quarter) and Mohamed Sanu throws a game-winning touchdown pass to Julio Jones, Antwan Randel El style. 44-40 Falcons.
How many universes does this happen in?
37 out of 1000.
How does it all go wrong?
Do I even need to answer this?