Atlanta must first keep quarterback Matt Ryan on his feet. Their 44 sacks allowed were 10th worst in the league. The fact Matt Ryan was able to throw for 4,515 yards and complete 67% of his passes seems amazing given that fact and his two primary receivers were either off the field or hampered by lingering injuries for the bulk of the year. First round Jake Matthews should help solidify the line but the loss of starting left tackle Sam Baker may offset some of that gain. They did make another key move in adding Jon Asamoah via free agency. Hopefully it will be enough. Receiver Harry Douglas is a quality number three option and played very will when filling in for Jones or White. At running back I'm very worried. Stephen Jackson is one year older after having the worst year of his career. He missed four games due to injury and wasn't effective when he was on the field. Backup Jacquizz Rogers didn't show anything that makes me think he is the heir apparent in the backfield. Some are high on rookie Devonta Freeman from Florida State. I think that is a lot to ask of a rookie back. Add to that the retirement of hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and the offense isn't in the clear yet. And no there isn't a passing tight end waiting in the wings. Still this team should be able to score some points. I just hope the line can hold and we aren't talking about a Matt Ryan injury at some point.
Atlanta has it's work cut out for it. The offense should be better this year (20th in points last year) which will be good. New kick return Devin Hester should also help with providing improved field position. I think the defense will be where the Falcons struggle the most. No matter how much they score I think the defense will keep opposing teams in the game. Even with Carolina, New Orleans and what should be an improved Tampa Bay team in the same division Atlanta can get back to the playoffs. But again it will hinge on the offense and staying healthy. That is asking much but that is what we fans do. In the end I think Atlanta gets nine wins and will be in the hunt for the final wild card spot.