The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a devastating loss in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. No matter how tough that loss was you have to think this team is built to compete for at least the NFC Championship for years to come. There must be some concern as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is now gone and new coordinator Steve Sarkisian is an unknown at the pro level. It would be hard if not impossible to repeat last year offensively but the offense still has all their weapons coming back so you have to think the Falcons are set up for another great year on that side of the ball.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is truly one of the best in the league. As the team’s anchor you have to feel Atlanta is in good hands. Stud receiver Julio Jones as well as Mohamed Sanu and surprise Taylor Gabriel give Ryan plenty of weapons to throw to. The running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are formidable giving the Falcons a balanced attack. All the skilled positions look good if not great. I worry about the line. Matt Ryan was sacked 37 times last year which put him tied for 6th in the league. First and foremost you have to worry about your franchise quarterback getting hurt and obviously you have to wonder how much better your team could be if Ryan wasn’t under so much pressure. For reference Tom Brady was sacked 15 times, Derek Carr 16 times, and Ben Roethlisberger 17 times.
The defense was not good last year sans a few one-off games here and there and three quarters in the Super Bowl. Digging deeper than just points you can say they played better towards the end of the year. Top cornerback Desmond Trufant will be back this year after missing seven games and the playoffs in 2016. Vic Beasley led the pass rush last year that will hopefully get better with the drafting of defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the first round. Everyone raves about the speed and youth of this defense. That needs to translate to a better defensive effort this year if Atlanta really has a shot at a title.
The Falcons will have to get over the nasty loss in the Super Bowl quickly. Coach Mike Quinn won’t want to stumble out the gate and have to listen to folks talking about a “hangover” from the Super Bowl. Atlanta also has a brand new stadium to christen which will hopefully be helpful. I expect 11 wins from this team and a trip to the NFC Championship. It could definitely be more wins but history says there is a letdown after teams lose the Super Bowl. We’ll see if Atlanta can buck the trend. They have the talent on offense and need improvement from their defense but this team could definitely be back in the title game – at least that is what I’m hoping for – well and a win in said Super Bowl.