Kevin C. Cox
Atlanta will practice hard despite the bye week.
The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, but the last time they had a bye, they suffered because of it:
The Falcons had a bye week in the 2010 playoffs before the Packers pounded them 48-21 on their way to the Super Bowl title. Smith said the lessons learned from the bye-week preparation that season prompted him to come up with a new plan this time.
"We are not going to do anything like we did last time," Smith said.
The Falcons will practice more frequently - holding four practices - this week. They also will spend less time in practice emulating the schemes run by their potential playoff foes and do more "Falcons on Falcons" work.
The idea behind the heavy practices is to keep the team "primed," Ledbetter wrote. Considering the Falcons ended the year on a sour note -- losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 22-17, despite playing all their starters -- they will need to be primed for their potential opponent.
The Falcons will play either the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks. If the Vikings win, the Falcons will play them. If the Vikings lose, though, the Falcons will play the winner of the Redskins-Seahawks game.
It's likely that not much will change for the Falcons once the postseason starts. Opposing teams will know that they need to shut down quarterback Matt Ryan, who had his best season as a pro. The former Boston College quarterback completed 68 percent of his passes this season for 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. He threw just 14 interceptions.