As many of you are no doubt aware, Sports Illustrated recently predicted that the Falcons would win the Super Bowl when it’s played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2019. It’s hard to exceed those lofty expectations, so it now begs the question: are the expectations for the Falcons getting to be too high?
Don’t get me wrong, the Falcons appear to be an immensely talented team, with few roster positions that look like significant weaknesses, at least on paper. They have a young and dynamic defense and a handful of legitimate superstars like Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Deion Jones.
That said, there are plenty of reasons the expectations need to be drawn back just a smidge.
Will Steve Sarkisian get it together?
Of all the talking points, this is the one that has Falcons fans the most worried. After a record setting 2016 season, the 2017 offense under new OC Steve Sarkisian looked lost and uninspiring for most of the year. There were moments of brilliance, but this offense struggled to put points on the board.
Granted, there were an abnormal number of fluke plays and it seemed like every player had their fair share of gaffes. Yet, the 2016 squad was able to overcome penalties and drops. The 2017 version under Sarkisian seemed incapable of recovering from any setback.
Adding Calvin Ridley will help, no doubt. It’s also statistically unlikely that Matt Ryan will have nearly eight tip-ball interceptions this year either. But Sarkisian has a lot to prove and many people are just assuming all will be fine. While I’m optimistic he can be much better, we need to see it happen consistently before we can believe in it.
The NFC is no cake walk
While the AFC looks like two or three good teams competing with the Patriots for the AFC title, the NFC could be a veritable bloodbath by comparison.
For starters, you have to think the Eagles will be considered one of the favorites to represent the NFC again - so long as Carson Wentz is healthy in time. If not the Eagles, the Vikings are a team that continually gets little respect, despite their fantastic defense and arguably improved QB position this year (along with getting a fantastic RB back this year).
The Saints have had two good draft classes that have dramatically improved their defense, though one has to wonder if Father Time will finally catch up to Drew Brees. The Rams added even more quality players to a formidable defense and dynamic offense and they seem like a team that is being mostly ignored despite their talent. The Packers may not have a talented roster, but they still have Aaron Rodgers.
In short, the NFC has at least 6 teams that should be considered contenders, if not more. This conference is stacked this year and while the Falcons are definitely a contender, they are unfortunately not alone.
Gotta stay healthy
Knock on wood, because this is always the great equalizer in the NFL. Far too many teams have seen promising seasons derailed by unfortunate injuries. While this is a risk for every team in the league, the Falcons have had pretty decent injury luck in the last couple of years. I’m not saying they’re “due” for a big injury—the Falcons have shown an above average ability to keep players healthy—but we all know what would happen if Matt Ryan or Julio Jones were to go down for an extended stretch. Ultimately, this reason alone should be enough to stop with the lofty expectations during the preseason.
What are your thoughts on the high expectations for the 2018 Falcons, and whether it’s too soon or just on time?