The Falcons went 6-2 in the second half last season after a terrible 1-7 start. The team looks to avoid that this season, but they have a killer first half schedule and have, arguably, the toughest schedule in the league.
Odds to win NFC South: +850
Odds to win NFC: +2200
Odds to win Super Bowl: +4000
Key Additions: The Falcons are rolling the dice bringing in former NFC Offensive Player of the Year RB Todd Gurley, who has been slowed by knee issues the last couple of seasons.
The team also brought in TE Hayden Hurst after losing All-Pro TE Austin Hooper. Atlanta helped their defense by bringing in Dante Fowler, who had 11.5 sacks last season, and first-round draft pick CB A.J. Terrell.
Key Losses: The loss of Hooper may hurt the most, as he had at least 70- receptions in each of the last two seasons. RB Devonta Freeman is gone, and the defense lost LB De’Vondre Campbell and CB Desmond Trufant.
The Falcons’ offense was Jekyll and Hyde last season ranking third in the league in passing yards per game but third to last in rushing yards per game.
Matt Ryan is back again under center and the durable QB and former MVP did pass for over 4,600 yards last season with 26 TD. However, he also had 14 INT and was sacked 48 times.
He has, arguably, the best WR in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley but needs some help from the run game, which is why the team is hoping Gurley can get back to being a great back.
Devonta Freeman led the team last season with 656 rushing yards and only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Gurley is now the lead RB and his backups are Ito Smith (106 rushing yards last season) and Brain Hill (323 rushing yards last season).
Last season Gurley rushed for 857 yards with 12 TD averaging 3.8 yards per carry in a season where he was hampered by knee and ankle issues. His health and production will be vital for the Atlanta offense.
The offensive line is a big issue, as the team did not do much to address that unit that gave up an average of 3.1 sacks per game and was not good at opening holes for the run game.
One of the reasons for the turnaround after the first half of last season was the defense. In the first eight games, the Falcons’ D gave up an average of 31.3 ppg while in the second half gave up an average of 18.6 ppg.
The defense lost three starters and the pass rush last season was not very good and that could hurt the team this season with Brees and now Brady playing in the division.
CB A.J. Terrell was the Falcons’ first-round draft pick. He is talented but unproven and the top three corners for the team have only combined for 29 combined starts.
While the Falcons look to avoid a bad start like last season they have a killer schedule early in the season. In their first six games, they face the Seahawks, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Panthers, and Vikings.
On top of that in four of their last seven games face the Saints and Buccaneers four times.
Prediction: I think the team will get off to a better start than last season but not by much. Gurley is past his glory days and the defense is young. Look for Matty Ice to have another big season but for the team to be under .500 and fail to make the playoffs again.