After 46 years in the National Football League, the Atlanta Falcons remain one of 14 teams that have yet to hold the Vince Lombardi trophy and call themselves Super Bowl champions. To be a fan of the Falcons is to accept the inevitable feeling of complete and utter disappointment. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Thomas Lake, a lifelong Falcon fan, describes how his fondest memories of the Falcons are fogged with the eerie understanding that even the most outstanding victories can be followed by season-halting losses. Whether it was the debacle that was their first Super Bowl appearance in 1999, the complicated love-hate relationship and bitter divorce with Michael Vick, or last year’s playoff shutout loss to the Giants, Falcons fans have learned to live with heartbreak. But as the Falcons gear up for this year’s playoffs, Thomas and his brother, Red, stand together amongst a sea of red and black waiting for their turn to come. Could this be their year? History says no, but their eternal optimism and devotion is telling them yes (page 66).
The four quarterbacks on the regional covers of Sports Illustrated’s NFL Playoff Preview—Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady, New Orleans’s Drew Brees and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger—have combined to win seven of the past 10 Super Bowls, including four Super Bowl MVP awards. Senior NFL writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) predicts that Brady and Brees will square off in a duel of record-breaking quarterbacks in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, with the Saints beating the Patriots 34–24. King’s complete predictions are listed below:
Can senior NFL writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) correctly predict who plays in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row? King was on the money last year when he said the Packers and Steelers would reach football’s Promised Land. Now, after a four-week road trip through over 20 training camps, King predicts the Falcons will take down the Chargers, 24–20, in Super Bowl XLVI. This year’s NFL Preview also contains detailed scouting reports for every single team and a list of eight great matchups for every division.
The six regional covers for the Sept. 5 NFL Preview—on newsstands Wednesday—feature Jerod Mayo (Patriots), Calvin Pace (Jets), Curtis Lofton (Falcons), Lamarr Woodley (Steelers), Clay Matthews (Packers) and DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys). Below is the last time each team appeared on the cover and how many appearances they’ve had overall:
- Falcons: Sept. 6, 2010 (NFL Preview, regional cover); seventh appearance
- Patriots: Jan. 24, 2011 (divisional playoff loss to the Jets); 25th appearance
- Jets: Jan. 24, 2011 (divisional playoff win over the Patriots); 22nd appearance
- Steelers: Jan. 30, 2011 (AFC championship game win over the Jets); 39th appearance
- Packers: Feb. 14, 2011 (Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers); 36th appearance
- Cowboys: July 26, 2010 (Miles Austin/training camp); 48th appearance
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In addition to the cover featuring Nnamdi Asomugha, the “NFL 2.o” package that headlines this week’s Aug. 8 issue includes the following:
NFL senior writers Jim Trotter and Peter King weigh in on the big-name deals and the under-the-radar moves, respectively. To view the full write-ups, go to Facebook.com/SportsIllustrated and “Like” the page. Then click on “This Week’s Issue” on the menu that appears on the left-hand side (page 31).