After 10 games, I think the Falcons are mostly who we thought they’d be on defense, and a pleasant surprise on offense. The 2016 schedule looked brutal coming into the year, so being at 6-4, no matter how some of those games have looked, is a nice surprise. The defense is not good, but there are signs that it could be very good in the future. The pass rush in particular looks much better, but is still inconsistent. The offense has been incredible, but still has it’s own issues. The OL needs to do better with penalties and Chris Chester is a liability, but this is an otherwise improved unit. Matt Ryan looks much more comfortable in this offense and he finally has a quality receiving corps. This may not be a Super Bowl quality team just yet, but there are clear indications they are building towards it. They could still do damage in 2016, but the true promise of this team lies in 2017 and beyond.
Let me put it this way: I thought the Falcons would be .500 or under at this point in the season. The fact that this defense is still fairly lousy, and that the offense looked shaky against the Eagles last week, does nothing to erase the fine work done to this point. Two games over .500 in the NFC South is better than we could have reasonably expected, given that we’re in year two of a new era in Falcons football with a D that is equal parts young and patchwork, and they’re still firmly in the playoff hunt. Enjoy the ride now, as I am, because we’ll have plenty of time to pick this team’s performance apart in the offseason, whenever it arrives.
I’ll admit that I’m very impressed. Countless moves have shaken out well for the Falcons. Keanu Neal is the real deal. Deion Jones is already a major improvement. De’Vondre Campbell is raw but impressive. Austin Hooper is making an impact. Alex Mack has solved a lot of offensive line problems. Taylor Gabriel was the perfect addition to the offense. When Arthur Blank said he expected four starters from the draft, we looked back at prior drafts and found that has never happened. What were the odds it happened this year? I can’t say if this team is complete enough to make a strong playoff run, but they are certainly trending in the right direction and impressing plenty around the league after only 10 weeks.
This team looks a lot like those 2010, 2011, and 2012 teams in the sense that they are a great offensive team with a struggling defense, but those teams made up for their lack of talent/ability by forcing turnovers--something this young defense has yet to do on a consistent basis. However, this defense has more athleticism and talent than those teams did, I think. They are still growing so the offense will be what takes this team anywhere of note, but I think the defense will improve with each game. They don’t seem as complete as Seattle or as powerful as Dallas but they are capable of beating those teams in one game, so I don’t think they are a super bowl team this season but they are definitely one of the top teams in the conference--that’s definitely more than I thought we would be saying at this point, though.
After 10 games and a 6-4 record, it’s hard to believe the Falcons once had one of the uglier schedules in the NFL. They’ve scratched and clawed their way to a respectable record in spite of facing what has felt like every good defense in the league while also playing “How far can we let you get without conceding a TD” on defense. Unfortunately, we’ve probably seen all we’re going to get out of the defense. They’ll occasionally make some plays or show some flashes, but they’ll inevitably leave you wanting more. The offense has been a real sight to behold. While the jets cooled off in Philly, the offense this year somehow exceeded even lofty expectations, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue. Headed into this year, I thought the team would be better but retain an 8-8 record, and luckily, anything north of 8-8 could very well be a playoff berth for this group. That’s all I need to see from this year’s Falcons to consider this year a success.
In a league filled with questions about talent and excitement, the Falcons have been one of the lone standouts. They’ve featured in several memorable games led by their prolific offense. After seeing Matt Ryan struggle in 2015 and his brief appearances during the preseason, there wasn’t much optimism surrounding Atlanta. Those doubts have vanquished for the most part. Tevin Coleman is a player that every defense needs to account for on a weekly basis. Taylor Gabriel has developed into the ultimate X-Factor. Signing a 30 year old center to a mega contract isn’t always the most comforting idea. Alex Mack has been the long-awaited solution at center and offensive game changer. Despite the defense’s struggles, there have been a few revelations such as Adrian Clayborn and Keanu Neal. It has been a fantastic season for the most part. Accept the interior defensive line’s flaws and linebackers’ inexperience for now. The Falcons have managed to play far above expectations, while coping with a grueling schedule filled with playoff teams and Super Bowl contenders. Fans should be overjoyed with a playoff appearance, but this team is capable of winning at least one game in January, before facing Dallas or a surging Seattle squad.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Falcons through ten games this season. They’ve been through a truly brutal opening stretch of the season and have been tested more than any team in the NFL. Atlanta has come out of that test with a winning record: they’re 6-4 and 3-1 in the division with a two-game lead on the second-place Buccaneers. The Falcons defense is still very much a work in progress, but the future is bright with the three rookies (SS Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones, and LB De’Vondre Campbell) playing well.
The Falcons boast the NFL’s #1 offense, as Matt Ryan has come alive in his second year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. They’re a threat to any team they play and have a chance to make noise in the playoffs. Still, this is a team with definite flaws, particularly on defense, and they have a ways to go before being considered one of the “elite” NFL teams. The rest of their schedule is fairly easy though: only the Chiefs (7-2) have a winning record. Atlanta could finish the year 10-6 or even 11-5, and once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Overall, my outlook is still the same as in a preseason interview that I did and our roundtable article at the roster cuts. In particular, a lack of depth is our main overall weakness, the divisional games are absolutely critical, and our young defense will have to go through its growing pains throughout the season.
I don’t know if the national media fully grasps just how young this defense is, but ponder this: eight of the ten players that Atlanta had on the field for 40+ defensive snaps against the Eagles were age 24 or younger. That is a mind-blowing amount of youth, especially for a division-leading team.