Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Atlanta Falcons, who finished the season 10-6. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.
Westgate odds to win the Super Bowl LIII: 18-1
Should contend, but there are question marks: The Falcons and owner Arthur Blank would love nothing more than to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium. In order to make that a reality, the Falcons have to rediscover the offensive success they enjoyed during their 2016 Super Bowl run, when they averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game. The missing element from that team is offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now the head of the San Francisco 49ers. New coordinator Steve Sarkisian wasn’t able to uphold the standard in his first season, but coach Dan Quinn expressed full confidence in Sarkisian heading into the 2018 season.
The Falcons have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, a game-changing receiver in Julio Jones, and a potent, 1-2 running back combo in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, provided they remain together. But the Falcons need to upgrade the interior of the offensive line next to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, and could use another serious deep threat to pair with Jones. Last season’s 11.7 points per game slide proved to be detrimental.
The Falcons have all the elements of a top-tier defense, as Quinn has assembled one of the fastest units around. But to actually win a Super Bowl, they need to continue to upgrade the defensive line so pressure on opposing quarterbacks, particularly up the middle, is consistent. Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley Jr., and Takk McKinley are young stars who could make the Falcons a feared group for years to come. But the Falcons should always be on the hunt for more playmakers, particularly in the secondary.
And the Falcons won’t enjoy as much success as they desire without making the necessary improvements on special teams. The first matter of business is re-signing reliable kicker Matt Bryant, who turns 43 in May.
Welcome to Straight form the ‘Beek! The Falcons are well into offseason mode preparing for 2018. You’ve got plenty of questions – and I’ve got answers. Just remember, all opinions you see in this space are mine, unless otherwise noted.
And we’re off.
Chris from Villa Rica, GA
Hello, Beek! I’m excited about the move with switching Vic Beasley to full time defensive end. Also, not to mention Takkarist McKinley had six sacks with minimal playing time. Damn that guy has a hell of a motor. My question is, with Beasley a full-time defensive end, do you think that move is deciding to part ways with Adrian Clayborn (and let Duke Riley become our spy linebacker)? Your thoughts? And once again, thanks for what you do FOR THE FALCONS FANS. RISE UP.
Matt: Hey, Chris. Something tells me you’re not the only one who is excited to see Vic Beasley moving to defensive end full time. After registering a league-best 15.5 sacks in 2016, Beasley tallied just 5.0 sacks last season. Keep in mind, too, that he also missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury early in the season. Regardless, the Falcons’ overall sack number actually increased from 34 in 2016 to 39 in 2017. Some people tend to forget or overlook that number I’ve noticed. And you’re correct about McKinley, who managed to get six sacks during his rookie season. His continuing development is definitely one of the bright spots on this unit moving forward. What happens moving forward is all speculation at this point, Chris. No one knows at this point what the Falcons will do with their own soon-to-be free agents. Right now, the team is focusing on getting Matt Ryan a new deal, which will allow the Falcons to be more flexible and creative in signing players this year and years to come. You mentioned Vic Beasley, who registered six sacks in one game alone and finished with 9.5 for the season. It’ll be interesting to what happens there – along with Dontari Poe, too. But I’d tap the brakes and try not to speculate too much. A lot of decisions will be made in the coming weeks … so try to be patient! I know, it’s not easy. Just have faith in general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons personnel department. They do a great job year in and year out.