The Atlanta Falcons were promising but ultimately disappointing in 2015, much better than anticipated in 2016, and somewhat disappointing in 2017. In both instances, however, they were one of the better teams in the NFL, and that alone is sort of surprising if you’ve followed this team for any length of time.
Essentially, the chart below takes a look at how teams performed versus their preseason expectations via bettors over the last three seasons. A team like the Dolphins weirdly ends up being bang-on, the Browns wind up being much more worse than every sportsbooks could have dreamed of, and the Patriots defy even the modest doubts placed upon them. The Falcons, meanwhile, fall somewhere toward the high-middle end here.
NFL teams with the best "wins vs expected wins" the past three seasons:— Al Smizzle (@AlZeidenfeld) March 25, 2018
The three worst:
Bears & 49ers tied at -5.5 pic.twitter.com/XAt9KpqN0Z
Essentially, the Falcons did most of their outperforming in 2016, when they were a Super Bowl team and one of the league’s most dynamic, exciting squads. In 2015, expectations were modest and they didn’t really exceed them, while most anticipated a good year from them in 2017. Taken together, the Falcons exceeded their expectations by about four wins, which I think you can chalk up to the fine job the team’s brain trust has done in terms of assembling this team (and the team itself for playing, on balance, very well).
Chances are the Falcons will need to outstrip expectations again in 2018, where they’re projected to be one of the NFC’s better teams, but likely comfortable behind the Eagles, Rams, and Vikings based on their busy offseasons. Thankfully, they’ve shown themselves up to the task of late.