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ATL Mailbag: Which team will be surprise dud of 2013

It's Sunday. While you cook up your theories on the "Mad Men" finale, I'll serve up another edition of the Around The League Mailbag.

Thanks to all who submitted questions. Those of you who were chosen are champions on this day. Let's get started:

My first instinct was to go with the Indianapolis Colts, but they've become a trendy anti-buzz pick, so I'll stay away. How about the Houston Texans? As a 12-win team from a year ago, they'd certainly qualify as a "surprise dud" if they slipped off the playoff grid. Matt Schaub has some doubters to prove wrong, and the Ed Reed signing seems more than a little questionable given the safety's health concerns. If Brian Cushing doesn't immediately return to a high level off anterior cruciate ligament surgery, the defense again will be vulnerable.

I think the fact that the creaky Plaxico Burress is in the mix for targets in the red zone tells you this could be a problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If it makes you feel better, Plax believes he can still "dominate" in this area of the field. This should not make you feel better.

If you watched Andy Dalton down the stretch last season, you have your doubts. I'm sure he's still sour about missing A.J. Green on a gimme touchdown that could have beaten the Texans in the wild-card playoffs. As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out in his "Top 10 QBs Under 25" countdown, Dalton (who came in at No. 9) missed too many downfield throws last season.

He works best inside the hash marks, which might have been a reason the Cincinnati Bengals drafted tight end Tyler Eifert in April. I loved that decision, but I'm not ready to predict breakout greatness from Dalton.

And now, apropos of nothing, a word from Jose Canseco

Thanks, Jose.

I'm not sure either will qualify. I'm a big Kanye fan, but "Yeezus" is not the easiest listen. It kind of reminds me when I first heard "Kid A" by Radiohead and thought to myself, "They're going to make me work for this." I eventually grew to love that album, but I'm not feeling as optimistic with "Yeezus." It's an easy album to admire, but a hard one to love.

As for Jay-Z, I'm all kinds of weirded out by the mega-corporate tie-in to his new album. I'm also weirded out by the commercial with a barefoot Rick Rubin laying on an $8,000 couch. It all feels off.

Come on now. As long as Tom Brady is entrenched and at the height of his powers (or near it), the New England Patriots are going to contend in the AFC. The situations surrounding Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez add uncertainty to the mix in Foxborough, but let's not pencil them in at 5-11 just yet.

To me, the Tennessee Titans enter the 2013 season as one of the most intriguing teams in football. Chris Wesseling hit the nail on the head in our "32 in 32" series when he wrote that no team has a wider range of outcomes this season than the Titans.

Rebuilding the offensive line was a big step that should help both Chris Johnson and Jake Locker. Shonn Greene should allow Johnson to be used more wisely, and rookie Justin Hunter has big-play ability on the outside. If Kenny Britt is healthy and Kendall Wright shows something, this could be a very good offense.

My concerns? Whether Locker is an NFL talent behind center. I'd also be worried about a defense that surrendered an NFL-worst 55 touchdowns in 2012. Gregg Williams still doesn't have much to work with there.

I think he is. Tony Soprano was television's original antihero. Without him, there is no Don Draper, no Walter White. More great characters will come, and they'll all owe a debt to Tone.

Celebrated TV critic Alan Sepinwall explained it best in his write-up following news of James Gandolfini's sudden death in Italy last week.

"As the star of "The Sopranos," what was so amazing about Gandolfini wasn't so much the way he looked -- TV had had overweight and/or balding leading men before (and at the start, Tony wasn't that big) -- but the way that he acted. He was a mobster, and an unapologetic one. Tony Soprano took what he wanted, rarely cared about who was hurt in the process, and at times was more animal than man.

"We had been told all our lives that we would not watch an ongoing series about such a man. A bruising, foul-mouthed giant with a dent in his forehead was the villain, not the protagonist. TV had always made compromises, always made sure that "flawed" heroes were ultimately redeemable and lovable.

"Tony Soprano was not. And we loved him, often despite ourselves."


If you want to be part of the next ATL Mailbag, tweet @NFL_ATL with the hashtag #ATLMailbag. Have more to say than 140 characters will allow? Email me at

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