After making the playoffs in 2017 and reaching the Divisional Round, Atlanta took a step backward and went 7-9 last year. Will the Falcons rebound in this season?
The 2017 season was supposed to be a stepping stone towards returning to the Super Bowl. Instead, it was stepping into quicksand which Atlanta never recovered from in 2018. This begs the question where is the Falcons franchise headed? Is this an organization that was that derailed by injuries and they pick up the pieces and will improve with better health? Or is this a squad that is anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7 and that is where they will stay this year and possibly in the immediate future?
The oddsmakers at 5Dimes seem to feel this is true, especially when making NFL odds for win totals. On the NFC front, there is room for optimism being listed 6th, since most years that is roughly a 9-7 campaign.
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Here is one way to look at Atlanta for the upcoming season.
Division Odds: +335 (2nd)
NFC Odds: +11590 (6th)
Super Bowl Odds: +2500 (11th)
Season Win Total: 8.5(-110)
Quarterback: The hope is Dirk Koetter can reboot the Atlanta offense as their offensive coordinator in a second stint. Koetter is very familiar with Matt Ryan and knows what he does and doesn’t do well and should be able to place him in the best situations for success. Ryan best strengths are passing off run fakes or scrambling to his right, as he’s quite skilled at seeing downfield, planting his foot and letting in rip out of his right hand. Not having the No. 25 rushing offense would help Ryan immensely.
Rest of Offense: The offensive line is being rebuilt and this will go a long way in determining what kind of season this team will have. Atlanta signed five new O-Linemen between free agency and the draft and thinks the talent upgrade will help this team. The passing offense will be in great shape if Julio Jones can avoid nagging injuries and Calvin Ridley continues to develop along with always solid Mohammed Sanu. The Falcons need more at tight end and somebody besides Devonta Freeman has to make an impact at running back.
Defensive Front Seven: No question health was a key issue in the demise of the Dirty Birds defense last season, but finishing 28th in total defense and 25th in scoring defense is not going to lead a postseason berth. The defensive line could be a real strength if DE Vic Beasley returns to prior form and matches DT Grady Jarrett. Adrian Clayborn returns and the hope is he can provide a much-needed pass rush. There are questions at linebacker spots other the Deion Jones in the middle. This contingent needs to avoid injury and stay on the field to improve cohesiveness.
Secondary: The precise health of safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal is still a running question, who both coming off major surgeries. If they could be close to 90 percent and have full mobility, the secondary takes a major leap forward in improvement. If one or both still have to rehab during the season, that’s not going help corners Desmond Trufant or Isaiah Oliver in trying to play and or disguise more complex coverage schemes. We’ll know more by Week 1.
Falcons Feelings: For NFL picks, no easy answer on the Falcons. If the offensive line and defense turn into assets rather than liabilities, coach Dan Quinn could have playoff team again. If it’s a repeat of last year, it will be more of the same mediocrity and some will want a head coaching change. Let’s go with enough goes right for the Dirty Birds and take the Over on them for the win total and return to the postseason.
Doug Upstone wrote this for SportsBookReview.com.