Week 7 will see us travelling east once again for our 4th and final game against the NFC South, this time against the Atlanta Falcons. Their 2018 season felt like it was over before it had begun, not only did they lose the season opener to the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, but they also lost key defensive starters Keanu Neal and Deion Jones to season-ending injuries. The Falcons offense took a step back in 2017 and never recovered in 2018, which meant that the team were relying on the defense to carry the load, but losing two pivotal players so early threw a spanner in the works. After a mid-season surge, the Falcons had playoff aspirations but they couldn’t stay consistent and eventually finished 7-9.
Atlanta has made a few moves in the coaching department. Head coach Dan Quinn thas assumed control of the defense and will call plays. A lot of head coaches in the NFL call plays, such as our very own Sean McVay on offense. Former Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter takes over as offensive coordinator.
It wasn’t the flashiest off season anyone has ever had, but the moves the Falcons made were good ones. Grady Jarrett isn’t a new signing but to keep him around for another year under the franchise tag will make it feel like one. Falcons fans will be hoping they can tie him up to a long term deal. Dan Quinn and his staff obviously feel they have a big need for an interior offensive lineman, as the Falcons signed James Carpenter to a four-year deal and ex-Ram Jamon Brown to a three-year deal. Both are guards and have starting experience for a number of teams. Carpenter will be pencilled in to start at left guard, Brown will have first go at right guard, but both will probably be battling first-round draft pick Chris Lindstrom for the starting positions. Now onto the departures, starting cornerback Robert Alford was cut in early February. His play didn’t warrant his contract, he struggled in coverage and gave up a defense high 8 penalties. Falcons legend Matt Bryant also left this off season, he leaves as the leading points scorer in franchise history with 1,122 points as the kicker. The Falcons had two first round picks following a trade with the Rams for 31st overall. They continued to strengthen the offensive line, taking guard Chris Lindstrom at 14th overall and tackle Kaleb McGary at 31st.
This offense has taken major steps back since losing Kyle Shanahan. It’s not surprising though, Kyle is arguably one of the best offensive play callers in the league, behind McVay of course. The Falcons have an abundance of offensive weapons. Julio Jones is a top 3 wide receiver in the league, Calvin Ridley had a very good rookie season and Mo Sanu is still a good number 2 or 3. That’s a very good trio in this league. I’m a big fan of Matt Ryan, I believe he’s a top 7 or 8 Quarterback in the NFL. At times he’s a little underrated but you don’t have an MVP season unless you’re a gifted player. Devonta Freeman at running back is always a threat, he missed most of last season but if he can get back to his 2015/16 Pro Bowl type form, then they have a dangerous back. Losing Tevin Coleman is tough, he was a good change of pace guy and kept Freeman fresh, but as you know, you can’t pay everyone.
Now onto the defensive side, as I’ve already mentioned Jones and Neal went down in Week 1, then free safety Ricardo Allen got injured in Week 3 and missed the rest of the year. Sometimes teams just get hit with the injury bug and unless you have competitive depth in those positions, you’re going to struggle. Former 5th Round pick Grady Jarrett had a career year last season, and if he carries on his upward rise he will be due a big contract, only time will tell whether that’s in Atlanta or not. The Falcons have some good pieces on defensive and with Quinn calling plays, they could take some steps forward.
In a way, they’re similar to us, high powered offense with a defense who can make plays and create turnovers. If Dan Quinn and his team can keep the roster healthy enough and the offense can get back to being the top unit it should be, I see no reason why the Falcons can’t go deep into the playoffs. The Saints will always cause them problems and it may be as a wildcard, but I definitely see them making it