1-5, 4th NFC South
Keeping Pace In The NFC South - In 2017, the NFC South had three teams with ten or more wins. Carolina and New Orleans are the big threats once again in this division, and despite winning ten games last season, Atlanta finished third. It is shaping up like another strong division, and while the divisional games will be very important, Atlanta’s winnable games will be even more key to take advantage of. New Orleans are the early favorites to win the division, but all three schedules for these teams present some difficulty. Atlanta will already have a tough start going on the road to Philly to open the season.
Time Running Out in Atlanta? - The Matt Ryan and Julio Jones era has been going on for a while now, and while they were close to securing a championship in their time, the opportunity was squandered. Jones is pushing the age of 30, while Ryan will turn 34 next year. It might be time to start asking how many years this connection can go at the level they are. Jones touchdown production has been on and off, and Ryan’s consistent play has been there, but not enough to get over the hump most years. We are still a year or two away from a true conversation, but it is something to note.
Contract Year For Tevin Coleman - The Falcons have had one of the more talented duos in football. Devonta Freeman is the lead back on this team, and will likely continue that way for the next few years. Tevin Coleman has been a viable change of pace back, and an enticing RB2 in this offense given how they use him. Coleman could likely be a starter on other team’s and this is his contract year to showcase that he can do so. The Falcons have already anticipated his move elsewhere, drafting Ito Smith in the recent draft, who is more than capable of stepping up in the Coleman role once he is asked.
Positive Regression In Red Zone - It was frustrating at times to watch this Atlanta offense, given they moved the ball with ease between the 20s, but struggled once getting into the end zone. They are likely due for some positive regression, so a sub-five touchdown season for Julio Jones is unlikely to happen again. Ryan should also see a tick up in touchdown production, dropping from 38 touchdowns in 2016 to 20 in 2017. Atlanta has too much talent on the offensive side to struggle down here. Boasting two strong running back options, they will have plenty to work with once the new season kicks off.
Top Ten Defense Incoming? - Atlanta’s defense is not being talked about much, but this has been a project in the making over the last few seasons, mainly through the draft. Atlanta finished inside the top ten in yards allowed, and nobody gave them much credit. They are sneaky good defense yet again, and while they have a tough division to go up against, Atlanta performed quite well. With players like VIc Beasley and Desmond Trufant, they have the playmakers in place, and have continued to add through the draft the last few seasons. To put in comparison, this Atlanta team was giving up 25 points per game just two seasons ago.