2018 Atlanta Falcons Season Win Totals Predictions and Expert Picks
2017 Record: 10-6
2018 Atlanta Falcons Las Vegas Season Win Total: 9.5*
2018 Atlanta Falcons Season Win Total Picks NFL Football: 'Over'
To some people, last year's Falcons season was a bit of a disappointment. Coming off their near-miss (and that's being kind) in the Super Bowl in February, the Falcons were intent on getting back to the championship game. But they came up short, losing in Philadelphia to an Eagles team that would go on to win the crown.
I couldn't have been more impressed with Atlanta last year. That soul-crushing Super Bowl loss, some key injuries and personnel losses, and a brutal schedule were just some of the ominous clouds hanging over this team 12 months ago. I expected a significant regression and thought Atlanta would flop. Instead, they won 10 games, won a playoff game over the Rams, and overcame the emotional hurdles that the Patriots loss placed in front of them.
Now the Falcons will gear up for another potential title run during Matt Ryan's prime. And this season there is extra motivation: the Super Bowl will be played on the Falcons home turf, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It won't be easy. The NFC South may be the best division in football. Last year it produced three teams with 10 or more wins, including Atlanta. An improving Tampa Bay team could be another impediment and the Falcons enter the season with the fourth most difficult schedule in the NFL.
The Falcons were also unusually healthy last season, tying the Rams for the fewest starts lost to industry. Also, their 16.9 defensive yards per point was one of the best marks in football and due for a regression.
Despite that, Atlanta is legit. Ryan is one of the four or five best quarterbacks in football. And he has a plethora of weapons to work with at running back and receiver. Further, the Falcons have done a great job of building up their offensive line over the course of the last three seasons, and that is now a strength of the offense rather than a clear liability.
For me the glaring issue on offense is Steve Sarkisian. He was not good as the offensive coordinator and play caller last season. And I haven't seen much this preseason to make me suggest he will be all that much better this season. That is definitely a storyline to keep an eye on with this team.
Defensively, the Falcons play fast. Bigger, stronger teams can push them around. But in today's NFL speed kills. And the Falcons have several good young players - Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, Robert Alford, Keanu Neal - entering their primes at the same time. Dan Quinn has done an excellent job of focusing this stop unit. But depth behind the starters is scarce thanks to several big contracts on offense.
Before Ryan came to town, this franchise had never had back-to-back winning seasons. Now Ryan has them poised for a third straight winning year for the second time in this decade. Atlanta has made the playoffs in six of Ryan's 10 seasons, and I don't see anything holding them back this year as well.
A fast start is imperative. Atlanta has three of its first four and a shocking five of its first seven games at home prior to their Week 8 bye. They need to stockpile as many wins as they can there, and should be able to do so with games against teams like the Bengals, Bucs and Giants.
Of course, that means Atlanta has to close the season with six of their last nine games on the road, including three of four road games in December.
I think that injuries - which they avoided last season - are the only thing that can derail this team. They have a fantastic quarterback, high-end talent on both sides of the ball, a winning culture, and solid systems and schemes on both sides of the ball. I'll play this group 'over'.
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