The Falcons season last year could be viewed several different ways. In a way, it was a smashing success as the offense overcame the loss of Kyle Shannahan and beat the surging Rams on the road wild-card weekend of the playoffs. On the other hand, you could view it as a failure. Matt Ryan had moments where it looked like he took a noticeable step back and some games Julio Jones just didn’t look like himself. Add that to the fact they lost to a Nick Foles lead Eagles in the playoffs after Jones slipped in the end zone in the divisional round and you could see how some Falcons fans were frustrated with the season last year. This year the goal of the Falcons must be to regain there spot as an NFC juggernaut.
Matt Ryan returns as the franchise QB of the Falcons. You look at Ryans last year and you take two things away. He struggled early in Steve Sarkisian’s system but after he figured it out he rolled last year. 20 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last year for Ryan it wasn’t his MVP season but he showed flashes of how great a QB he can be no matter what the system. I expect him to have a big bounce back this year. Throwing 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this year.
The Falcons have the deepest wide receiving core in the league. Julio Jones is the big top-five wideout who will dominate this year as he does every year. Jones had some drops last year but I believe he will have a huge bounce-back year in 2018. However, Jones is certainly not the only awesome piece of receiving power Matt Ryan will have this year. Mohamed Sanu continues to prove year in and year out that he is a substantial deep threat. Last year Sanu averaged five yards a catch and put up 703 yards with under 70 targets. If Ryan can get him more involved this year I could see Sanu having an 850-yard season. After losing Taylor Gabriel to the Bears the Falcons went out and picked up by far the best receiver in this years draft class in my opinion, Calvin Ridley. Ridley should have a huge part in the offense this year and if you add in speedy tight end Austin Hooper you could make a real case that the Falcons have the best receiving core in the league, no doubt about it.
The Falcons O line wasn’t amazing last year but they have pieces. Outside of tackle Ryan Schraeder, there doesn’t seem to be a major weakness on the line. If they can keep Ryan protected this year the Falcons again have the potential to be the best passing attack in the league. Center Alex Mack anchors the group and after Brandon Fusco had a break out year last season you would imagine the Falcons only improve on the offensive line this year.
The Falcons running back room remains deep. Devonta Freeman will continue to be the bruiser down the middle. Last year Freeman had a great year putting up 865 yards on the ground. The Falcons running game last year was one of the best in the league and top 5 statistically because of the contributions of Tevin Coleman. Coleman is more of a receiving back but on any other NFL roster would be the starter, if the two can keep up the great pairing they provide this offense is potentially the best in the league.
The Falcons defensive line is really deep. Vic Beasley Jr. had a great development year in 2017 and should make the leap in 2018. Grady Jarett and Deadrin Senat make an insanely good run blocking duo. Add Takk Mckinley and you have a ferocious defensive line that can get to the passer and stop the run. The one place of weakness or uncertainty of this roster has to be the linebackers. All of them are young and unproven, Deion Jones played well last year but in my opinion, the jury is still out on him. The secondary is full of great talent. Robert Alford had a breakout season last year and was, in my opinion, the best corner on the team even above all-star Desmond Trufant. Then you look at Justin Bethel as the third corner who covers well against anyone he’s matched on and you could make an argument that this is a top-five cornerback group. Keanu Neal broke out at safety last year and if he continues to improve this year this could be one of the best defenses in the league.
Listen, if the Falcons were in any other division they would be 13-3 but it goes down because of how tough a schedule they play. This may seem a bit low for a record prediction and I would not be shocked if they outdo this.
Record Prediction: 12-4