On Thursday, we discussed why we think the Falcons can go 12-4 next season. Today we turn our faces to the darkness and talk about what would have to happen for the Falcons to finish the 2018 season 4-12.
Please keep in mind that there’s not a single person here who WANTS the Falcons to finish 4-12. That’s a scenario we’ve all lived through in 2013 and the main thing I remember about it is how much it aggressively sucked. But the NFL is a fickle business, and a season can be easily derailed. Let us explain how that might happen even as we all hope that it doesn’t.
Matt Chambers: Steve Sarkisian
That’s right, I’m blaming Sarkisian if the Falcons hit both 4 wins and 12 wins. They went 10-6 with Sarkisian as a first-time NFL coordinator, so 10 wins should be a fair benchmark. This should be the year that defines Sarkisian’s pro coaching career. He either puts it together, continues to fumble through multiple games, or it all falls apart to the tune of a four win season. Based on the team’s talent (as much as some commenters refuse to believe the team has a solid roster), four wins probably resulted him Sarkisian getting booted by the bye week. Which means, in my best Mark Morrison voice, it’s the return of the Knapp.
Allen Strk: Both lines don’t improve
A growing trend is happening in the NFC. The top-tier teams are starting to stack their respective defensive lines. Philadelphia essentially took Michael Bennett away from Seattle. The big moves continued, as the Vikings signed Sheldon Richardson. Just when you think things couldn’t get crazier, Ndamukong Suh may join the Rams or Saints. Could the league handle Suh pairing with Aaron Donald? Good luck with that. In the Falcons’ case, both lines need to improve if they want to get back to the Super Bowl. Not holding up in pass protection could start a complete downfall. The same applies on the other side, if Vic Beasley can’t get back to his 2016 form and Takkarist McKinley’s development hits a standstill. Not properly replacing Dontari Poe would also play a factor as well.
Eric Robinson: The defense is a complete no-show
We saw major improvement from the young unit in terms of total defense (25th in 2016, 9th in 2017) and points allowed (27th, 8th) and thankfully, their step forward came at a time where the offense were needing the entire season to find their footing. This defense is led by a lot of players who are in their second, third, or fourth seasons and the upcoming draft will add a few other key assets going forward. There is plenty of offensive talent for the Falcons to win a few games with but until we see the personnel and scheme go hand-and-hand once again, it is this young defensive unit that will be called upon a little more once again to keep opponents at bay.
Adnan Ikic: Disastrous Injuries
The Falcons are one of the most talented teams in the NFC, even if they don’t go out and spend a truckload of money on free agents. With an improving young defense and Steve Sarkisian entering a more comfortable second year of calling plays I find it hard to imagine this team finishing below .500, let alone accumulating a 4-12 record. However, football is a violent sport, and injuries will always be a concern. If the Falcons are plagued by bad luck, and see multiple key contributors suffer long-term injuries then a 4-win season would be a lot more likely. Losing Matt Ryan at any point, for example, would be too much for this team to overcome.
Kendall Jackson: It’s gotta be injuries
With the players the Falcons have on offense, they should be able to score 20 points in their sleep, and second-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian should (hopefully) be markedly better in his sophomore campaign. A defense that put together an overall solid 2017 should only get better. So, how do the Falcons win six fewer games than they did a season ago and finish 4-12 in 2018? Injuries to key players across the board.
Dave Choate: Injuries, injuries, injuries
This team is too talented to go 4-12 unless they suffer the loss of multiple key starters to injuries. Obviously, that prospect freaks me out every year, but it’s about the only way they’re going to fare so poorly in 2018.
Kevin Knight: Injuries and a Sarkisian faceplant
The Falcons are simply too talented on both sides of the ball to fall into the dregs of the NFL without catastrophic injuries. Quinn, Ryan, and Julio dragged a team with a mediocre defense and one WR to 8-8 in 2015. I’m not going to name names, but multiple serious contributors on offense and defense would probably have to go down to drag the Falcons this low. Another contributing factor would also have to be the failure of Steve Sarkisian to adapt to the NFL, leading to another season of bland, predictable offensive playcalling. I prefer not the think about this scenario, because it means the Falcons completely wasted a year of Ryan and Julio’s prime. At least we’d get a nice draft pick?
Carter Breazeale: Injuries, ad nauseam
Make no mistake, the 2017 incarnation of the Atlanta Falcons was massively talented, but failed to ever really click on all cylinders. Even with an offense that struggled to score touchdowns and a first-year coordinator who often misused his personnel, they still made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. I’m anticipating that Sarkisian fully settles in and becomes more comfortable in his role this season, which hopefully assuages some of the red zone issues. Like those above me, if the Falcons go 4-12 it means that the injury bug mercilessly targeted and ravaged Atlanta. This team is simply too good and too well-rounded to falter to the tune of a meager four wins on the season. Should that occur, it will be the result of starters on the shelf.
Jeanna Thomas: Yep, all of these guys are right
If the Falcons stay healthy and Sarkisian settles in, it should be pretty smooth sailing for Atlanta. The NFC South should be competitive next season, and it won’t be an easy road by any means. But if those things happen, the Falcons are playoff contenders. If the Falcons lose even one key player, it’ll be a disaster. If Sark doesn’t get his life together as a playcaller, the team still could make the playoffs, but we’ll likely see another early exit. And Atlanta is banking on continued improvement from this impressive young defense. If we don’t see that, it’ll be a problem.
Bear in mind that we still have the draft ahead of us and plenty of roster shifts and changes between now and the start of the season. But for now, those are the two issues that could derail the Falcons in 2018.