Not likely. At least not to the same degree. These Falcons have a much better chance to salvage their season than the group that finished 5-11 after losing Anderson in Week 2 of 1999.
Here's why: First off, there's the schedule. In 1999, coming off their 1998 Super Bowl season, the Falcons drew a first-place schedule. Atlanta started 0-2 in the games that Anderson played in, found itself in a hole, then still had games to come against 1999 Super Bowl contestants St. Louis (2) and Tennessee, along with tough tests against teams like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.
This year, the Falcons drew a fifth-place schedule, thanks to their 4-12 showing in 2000. And Atlanta already is better off in terms of the timing of when Anderson went down. With two consecutive wins, the Falcons sit 2-1 with four of its next five games at home in the Georgia Dome. All four games are against teams with a losing record in 2000: Chicago, San Francisco, New England and Dallas. Only an Oct. 21 trip to New Orleans and an open date the following week break up the homestand.
The Falcons should make it through that stretch no worse than 5-3, and could very well be 6-2 at midseason. The schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half, with two games against St. Louis, and trips to Green Bay, Indianapolis and Miami, but by then the Falcons should have some margin for error.
Secondly, the Falcons are much better prepared to play without Anderson than they were in 1999. That year, they made do with the underwhelming tandem of Ken Oxendine and Byron Hanspard. That duo combined for 835 yards and two touchdowns on 277 carries (3.0 yards per rush). Atlanta as a team rushed for less than 1,200 yards in 1999, after posting 2,100 in '98, led by Anderson's franchise-record 1,846.
This year, a replacement for Anderson quickly emerged in second-year man Maurice Smith. Playing about three quarters at Arizona, Smith rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and also took a short pass 79 yards for another score. All told, Smith touched the ball 23 times and produced 188 yards and two scores. That will suffice. Atlanta also has useful veterans Rodney Thomas and Travis Jervey in reserve.
The Falcons may not fly high without Anderson in 2001. But chances are, they won't swoon to 1999 levels either.