Atlanta Falcons Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 6/24/2014
The Atlanta Falcons have been one of the NFL's most stable, successful organizations since the team hired former Patriots college scouting director Thomas Dimitroff in 2008 as the general manager and he then hired Mike Smith as the team's head coach and took quarterback Matt Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft. The Falcons won 11 games that season and never less than nine in the following four. They were the NFC's top seed in the 2012 season and came-oh-so-close to a comeback win over San Francisco in the NFC title game at the Georgia Dome.
Thus, most expected the team to be a contender again last year. Maybe it could have been had four of the first five games gone differently. Atlanta lost games that went down to the wire against the Saints, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets. At 1-4 most teams' seasons are finished as it is, and that was the case following the Jets loss for the Falcons as star receiver Julio Jones was lost for the year to an injury. A 4-12 mark was the franchise's worst since the dreaded Bobby Petrino experiment in 2007. Don't rule out some major chances in the front office and coaching staff if this season is more like last year's.
Ryan had his best season in 2012 with 4,719 yards, 32 TDs and 14 interceptions for a rating of 99.1. Last year, with a pretty porous offensive line, the loss of Jones early in the season and no running game whatsoever, Ryan's numbers all slipped: 4,515 yards, 26 TDs, 17 picks (career high) for a rating of 89.6. Running backs tend to fall off a cliff production-wise when they hit age 30, and that certainly happened to Steven Jackson last year. He was still pretty good with St. Louis in 2012 but limited to just 12 games last season and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. The Falcons didn't really address running back this offseason other than taking Florida State's Devonta Freeman in the fourth round. They also didn't address tight end after losing future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez to retirement. Levine Toilolo (11 career catches) looks like the starter there. The club did take care of the offensive line, selecting Texas A&M's Jake Matthews with the No. 6 overall pick in the May draft and signing Chiefs guard Jon Asamoah. Also, Atlanta signed the best return man in history, former Bear Devin Hester. He may get a few offensive snaps at receiver.
While the Falcons couldn't run the ball on offense, their front seven got pushed around defensively as well with the team ranking 31st in rush defense at 135.8 yards per game. Former Dolphin nose tackle Paul Soliai should help with stuffing the run, and the Falcons also signed former Chiefs end Tyson Jackson, who has never lived up to expectations. Second-round pick Ra'Shede Hageman of Minnesota should see rotation time at tackle right away. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they already have lost one of their best defenders for the season. That would be injury-prone inside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who tore his Achilles' tendon earlier this month. Weatherspoon is a good player but has missed 12 games over the past two seasons.
2014 Atlanta Falcons Schedule Analysis
The Falcons have the 11th-toughest schedule as their opponents went a combined 130-124-2 last season, a winning percentage of .512. It's by far the toughest strength of schedule in the NFC South. Atlanta's road slate (.523) appears a bit stronger than at home (.500). The Falcons are 1-point favorites for Week 1 at home against New Orleans, which is the smallest spread of any game. The total of 52 is the second-highest. The Falcons were swept by the Saints last year and largely have struggled against them since Drew Brees arrived in the Big Easy. Both 2013 games could have gone the other way. The Saints won 23-17 at home in Week 1 when Ryan was intercepted on fourth-and-3 at the New Orleans 3-yard line in the end zone in the final seconds (dropping Atlanta to 3-3 in season openers under Mike Smith). The Saints won 17-13 in Atlanta in Week 12, a short week for both.
The Falcons' bye is in a nice spot, Week 9, and other than the opener against the Saints and Week 2 in Cincinnati, they don't face a playoff team before the bye: vs. Bucs, at Vikings, at Giants, vs. Bears, at Ravens, vs. Lions (in London). Certainly those latter four have a shot at being playoff clubs this year, but none of them are unwinnable for Atlanta. Post bye, the Falcons travel to Tampa and Carolina before getting four of their final six at home. The Falcons' likely only cold-weather outdoor game will be Week 14 in Green Bay. The Saints rematch in Week 16 could decide the division.
2014 Atlanta Falcons Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Futures Betting Lines
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Falcons are +5200 to win their first Super Bowl, +2800 to win the NFC championship and +350 for the NFC South. They have a wins total of 8.5, with the "under" a slight -120 favorite. The Falcons are +235 to make the playoffs and -300 to miss out. Ryan is +5000 to win NFL MVP and Jones is +10000. Ryan is +1400 to lead the NFL in passing yards, Jackson +7500 to lead the NFL in rushing and Jones +1200 to be the leader in receiving yards. Roddy White is +5000 on that prop. Matthews is +4000 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, which would be interesting because a lineman never has. Hageman is +3000 to win DROY.
2014-15 Atlanta Falcons Picks and Predictions
I believe the Falcons are closer to the 2012 version than last year's huge disappointment. Not quite as good as that 13-win club but not too far off. I rather wish they had upgraded at running back, because Jackson looked done last year. But the offensive line should be improved, and a trio of Ryan/Jones/White is about as good as any in the NFL. Go "over" the 8.5 wins as the Falcons could get to 10. They won't win the NFC South but should finish second and compete for a wild-card spot. I don't recommend any of the individual props.
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