Before the Atlanta Falcons could even blink, the 2018 NFL season was looking like a lost cause. Atlanta had lost three of their first four games, their starting running back was sidelined with an injury, and the defense was giving up an inordinate number of points.
The Dirty Birds teased their fanbase by winning three straight to even their record at 4-4, but that’s when everything came undone.
A loss in week 10 to the Browns was the start of a miserable five-game losing streak, four of which resulted in double-digit blowouts. Dan Quinn was never able to fully right the ship, despite Matt Ryan statistically putting up eerily similar numbers to his 2016 MVP campaign.
As you read through this Atlanta Falcons 2019 season preview, opinions are going to vary as to how they will perform.
Some of you will have them destined for 10+ wins and a trip back to the playoffs. Others will say this team is set to take another step in the wrong direction and could even be the bottom feeders of the NFC South.
As far as my prediction goes, I’ll leave that for the betting segment below. Once you gain some insight on what their realistic expectations are, I’ll discuss their futures odds and projected win total.
Atlanta Falcons 2019 Outlook and Expectations
- Head Coach: Dan Quinn
- 2018 Record: 7-9
- Key Addition: James Carpenter (free agent)
- Key Loss: Tevin Coleman (signed with San Francisco)
If you just looked at the numbers that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones put up, you’d probably assume the Falcons won 11 or 12 games and were a force to be reckoned with. Atlanta averaged 25.9 points per game, and the 389.1 yards/game their offense gained was good enough for the 6th-most in the league.
Unfortunately, their defense was decimated with injuries and couldn’t get off the field when it counted.
I assumed that the obvious holes on the defensive side would be addressed immediately in the draft, but Thomas Dimitroff instead concentrated on another area that was also in need of a boost.
The Falcons’ general manager spent both of the team’s first-round picks on offensive lineman, both of whom will be inserted as starters right from the get-go. Chris Lindstrom came off the board at #14 and can play either guard or tackle, but I actually think its Kaleb McGary (31st pick) who will end up being the star.
After being selected, the 6’7” Washington native didn’t mince any words when asked about the type of football player he is.
“They’re getting a guy who is very prideful about being a lineman. I love everything about being a lineman. I’m going to bust my tail and protect Matt Ryan.”
Keep in mind, this happened after Arthur Blank and Atlanta’s front office reached into their pockets on March 13th to sign a pair of offensive linemen. Jamon Brown (3-year/$18.75 million) and James Carpenter (4-year/$21 million) were inked to add much-needed depth, so let’s hope Matt Ryan doesn’t get sacked 42 more times during the upcoming season.
Sustaining any traction on the ground will be made more difficult with Tevin Coleman moving on to San Francisco, but at least Devonta Freeman should be locked and loaded coming off an injury-plagued year. Kenjon Barner signed a one-year deal and might be rotated into certain formations, and Coach Quinn seems insistent that Ito Smith will be featured more often.
If the offensive line can develop at a rapid rate and these running backs can stay upright, perhaps Matt Ryan won’t be burdened with having to eclipse 4,900 passing yards just so the team can win a measly seven games.
I mentioned Julio Jones putting up massive numbers — a league-high 1,667 receiving yards, to be exact. What I haven’t done is unveil how outstanding Calvin Ridley was during in his first year in the league. Ridley led the team with 10 TD receptions and was virtually un-guardable for stretches.
How opposing teams plan on shutting down both Jones and Ridley in 2019 is anybody’s guess, but I’ve yet to come up with a legitimate answer.
The better question is whether Dan Quinn will have his troops ready to go to battle when the gun goes off. It won’t take us long to find out how prepared the Falcons are thanks to a brutal schedule to begin the season. Road contests at Minnesota and at Indianapolis are sandwiched around a home game versus the Eagles, meaning an 0-3 start isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The good news is Atlanta finishes with games against the 49ers, Jaguars, and Buccaneers, a trio of squads who went a combined 14-34 in 2018.
As long as they can tread water in the early going, staying afloat as the season winds down shouldn’t be an issue.
The Falcons Trump Card – A High-Octane Passing Attack
The 4,924 passing yards Matt Ryan accounted for last season was actually the second time in three years he has surpassed 4,900 yards through the air. A 35/7 TD/INT ratio and a completion percentage of 69.4% tells you everything you need to know about how competent of a QB the former Boston College signal-caller has become.
It’s easy to make an argument that Julio Jones is the best receiver in football, and you won’t find a 24-year-old running routes who is more polished than Calvin Ridley. The Falcons explored trading Mohamed Sanu but instead backed out, and Austin Hooper is quietly one of the up-and-coming tight ends we should be watching.
Study the depth charts across the league and try and come up with a list of passing attacks that have more firepower than the Falcons. I’ll bet it would be a pretty short list.
With the palpable enhancements to the offensive line and a running game that ought to improve, there’s no reason to think Matt Ryan won’t orchestrate another fantastic year flinging the pigskin around the gridiron.
He’ll be reunited with his former offensive coordinator (2012-2014) after Dirk Koetter was only unemployed for about eight days before agreeing to come back to Atlanta.
The head coach in Tampa Bay for the past three seasons knows as much about the NFC South Division as any coach in the league, and I doubt this group misses a beat.
The problem is that as high-octane as their offense is, it still might not be enough to overcome their deficiencies on the other side of the ball.
Atlanta’s Shortcoming – An Unreliable Defense
Deion Jones is healthy after missing 12 games with a foot injury and is entering the final year of his rookie contract. For a guy who had 106 tackles in 2016 and 138 tackles in 2017, I envision he’ll be ravenous to lock up some serious money in the 2020 offseason.
Damontae Kazee emerged with seven interceptions, and Keanu Neal’s knee rehabilitation is still on track. Clearly, there are some positives to grasp onto in the A-T-L, but let’s put it all on the table before we get excited.
Vic Beasley has yet to pan out as a ferocious edge rusher, the first defensive player they drafted in April has a torn pectoral muscle, and Dan Quinn doesn’t have anyone in his front seven who appears to be a born leader. It’s no wonder this unit was so ineffective under Marquand Manuel’s guidance in 2018.
Atlanta recovered just four fumbles in 16 games; only the Raiders recovered fewer. In terms of getting off the field on third down, the Falcons allowed opponents to convert 48.7% of the time (also ranking 31st in the league). Add it up, and it’s not a shocker that Manuel still hasn’t been hired since he was canned on New Year’s Eve of last year.
The hope is that the switch to Dan Quinn taking over as the defensive coordinator will turn the tide, but I’m saying not so fast. New Orleans still has Drew Brees, the Bucs had the #1-ranked air attack a season ago, and Carolina is poised to get much better on offense.
Frankly, it could be another long year in “the City in a Forest.”
Atlanta Falcons Betting in 2019
Falcons – Futures Bets
|Win the NFC South Division||+375|
|Win the NFC Championship||+1600|
|Win the Super Bowl||+3300|
Regular Season Win Total
|Over 9 Wins||+105|
|Under 9 Wins||-125|
I can’t get behind investing in Atlanta winning the NFC South, and I’m not remotely interested in backing them to advance deep into the postseason. And as much as I love placing wagers with “plus money” attached, banking on the Falcons to win ten or more games is probably just wishful thinking.
Rather than lay -125 on them winning fewer than nine games, I might just sit this one out.
I’m writing season previews for every NFL team over the next couple of weeks, so be sure to visit our blog often. If you want to read more predictions then check NFL 2019 Predictions. If you want to watch NFL complete season Live then please visit How to watch NFL 2019 Season here.