I'm always interested to see where pundits rank the Falcons, a team that may well be improved, but a team that has enough question marks to create pause for said pundits. I'm even more interested to see what happens when people start crunching numbers and determining odds, however.
That's the case with NumberFire, which does a nice job of forecasting the next season. They're giving the Falcons the third-best playoffs odds in the NFC South, readily acknowledging that the South is likely to be a mashed-up, largely mediocre mess for one more year.
Though their defensive prowess left them better than exactly one other defensive unit in the league in 2014, the Falcons defense seems to be pointing in the right direction, particularly with Quinn at the helm. However, if they are to win the division, it will be on the backs of their electric offense.
Projected Record: 8.1-7.9
Division Probability: 27.0%
Playoff Probability: 42.0%
Given that the Panthers have just a 28% chance per their projections and the Saints just 35% to win the NFC South, it's hard not to feel okay about this. Every team in this division has significant and perhaps fatal flaws, so it's unlikely anyone's going to absolutely run away with this. If the Falcons can hang around with the Panthers and Saints (and Bucs, if they prove ready), then they'll have a chance to steal this one away. I remain unconvinced that they'll dominate the South in 2015, though.
The projection has the Falcons ending up at around .500, which seems fair enough given questions about talent, injuries, and what kind of impact the new coaching staff will have. If the rest of the NFC South proves weak and the Falcons can surprise on defense, though, I think we may just view this as a pessimistic projection.
What say you?