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Falcons season previews and predictions from The Falcoholic staff

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We’re usually an optimistic bunch, but this season we think the Falcons are headed for greatness.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We asked The Falcoholic staff to weigh in on the season ahead, give us some record predictions, and share thoughts. Here’s our best guesses at what lies ahead.

Matt Chambers

0-16. Burn it all down.

Actually, I feel pretty strongly this is the strongest roster in Falcons history. The biggest question is really the offensive play caller, and even if Sarkisian is still bad, this team should be great. Even the schedule looks easy. Say the Falcons split with the only two competitive teams in the NFC South, maybe lose to Pittsburgh, and toss in one of those weird fluky losses, I’ve got the Falcons at 12-4. This schedule is simply not intimidating. I can’t see more than two losses between the perpetually mediocre NFC East and consistently disappointing AFC North. The Falcons are simply better than these teams.

DW

11-5

When the Falcons went to the big dance in 2016, they did it with a young defense that was getting better but was still a work in progress. That defense is now deeper and more experienced and has the potential to be a top 5 unit, though top 10 seems like a more reasonable estimate. While the offense will not likely be the 2016 unit again, there’s reason to believe that Steve Sarkisian can field a top 10 unit.

Even though the Falcons were middle of the pack in 2017, they were highly successful at moving the ball between the 20s. Subtract the fluky interceptions and mind-numbingly bad drops, and last year’s offense would likely have been top 10. A full year of experience and an off-season for study and planning should at least make Sark competent enough to field a respectable offense again. There’s far more upside than all of these predictions, so 11-5 seems like splitting the difference here. The potential is there, they just need to live up to it.

Cory Woodroof

Atlanta will be a very good football team this year. We all know how talented they are and what they’re capable of. 2018 will ultimately depend on if they can take that step to be an elite overall team, capable of beating anyone, anywhere, any week. That step will depend on two things non-health related: Steve Sarkisian’s maturation as a play caller and the young defense’s maturation as an overall unit.

If the Falcons can grow up in time, they’re going to be back in the playoffs with playoff experience out the wazoo and a playoff-ready quarterback. If Sark isn’t there yet and the defense continues to make one too many mistakes, this isn’t going to go how any of us hope it will. I’ll guess 11-5, because I just don’t think any NFC team can do more than that this year. They’ll be good; the question is just, when the dust settles, *how” good.

Or, what Chambers said. Either works.

Cam Marino

13-3

The Falcons will be a heck of a ball club this year and that’s a promise. Quinn’s leadership is such an underrated factor in our success and I think increasing experience only helps this team. That’s not even mentioning our amazing front office or our fast and physical 53.

People who doubt our defense will soon eat their words because with a star in Vic Beasley who should put up double digit sacks, a guy who should explode the scene and put up double digit sacks himself in Takk McKinley, a field general in Deion Jones, along with some improvement for De’Vondre Campbell and an extremely solid secondary, I see the Falcons only going up.

I trust Sark. I truly do. Julio Jones is finally 100 percent and that is scary. The team’s one-two punch in Freeman and Coleman is at its finest right now. Matt Ryan is going to see good numbers and the team’s offensive line is a top five unit.

This team is awesome.

Torgo

First things first. Before we even think about the postseason, we need to make it through the regular season. As always, everything will be riding on the divisional games.

The NFC South is again shaping up to be the toughest division in the NFL. New Orleans and Carolina each added some pieces this year, and Tampa is putting together a decent roster as well. The Falcons only went 1-5 in the divisional games in 2015 and went 8-8. Atlanta flipped it around at 5-1 the following year, won the division and finished as the #2 seed.

Last year’s 4-2 was good for a postseason berth, but not enough to land consecutive titles for the first time in franchise history. Seeding, home field advantage, and simply making the postseason will all be riding on those six divisional contests. As for the roster, some areas still lack a little depth. But if that’s your worst problem, you have a solid roster. 11-5.

Kyle McClendon

While I truly feel that Chambers is spot on with his prediction, I’ll change it up a bit. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

After looking over the Falcons schedule I think there will be a number of close games and some challenging opponents, but I also think they will be game for all of it. The NFC South is a tough division and the schedule isn’t much easier outside of the division, so this won’t be a cakewalk by any means. However, the Falcons still have one of the best rosters in the NFL and one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the league. Assuming the team stays healthy and players progress as they should, this season could be really special. 11-5 is my bet.

Kevin Knight

We’re witnessing a special Atlanta Falcons team in 2018. Who knows if they’ll reach the heights of that 2016 squad, but they’re arguably the most talented and well-rounded roster that has ever been constructed in Atlanta. The defense is improving--it’s loaded with young playmakers and rising stars--but the big question is: can it be consistently good to great? The offense should be the strength of the team, but can Steve Sarkisian pilot it to new heights?

If they answer to both of those questions is yes, this Falcons team will have a great shot at competing for a Lombardi Trophy in February. If the answer to just one of those questions is yes, this team should still be among the NFL’s strongest contenders. I think a 12-4 record is well within the realm of possibility for this squad. I just hope that’s enough to get the 1 seed in a stacked NFC.

Can you imagine playing three straight home playoff games: Divisional, NFC Championship, and the Super Bowl? That’d be a hell of a story, and just might make up for all the pain we endured a few years back.

Allen Strk

11-5

To reach the playoffs in the NFC, you have to be well balanced and equipped on both sides of the ball. To come out as the top team in a ridiculously stacked conference, a total group effort is required. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that every playoff team last year from the NFC had an excellent head coach to go along with a talent-rich roster. The final two remaining teams (Philadelphia and Minnesota) ultimately had the best overall coaching staff, which was evident in both offensive coordinators being respectively hired by the Giants and Colts. How Steve Sarkisian evolves as a play caller and decision maker will likely decide the Falcons’ championship fate.

The roster has never looked better on paper. Other than some questions on the defensive line, there is no reason why the Falcons can’t win between 10 to 12 games. The balance between Sarkisian’s game planning and Dan Quinn taking more of the initiative as a head coach will be crucial, particularly against top-tier opponents. Improving on last year’s frequent issues such as converting red zone opportunities and not allowing seven-minute demoralizing drives should be monitored as the season progresses. It’s difficult to label the Falcons as a Super Bowl favorite at the moment, but they are certainly one of the top four teams in the NFC. Not bad for a franchise that was projected by many to finish 7-9 or 8-8 two years ago.

Dave Choate

I’m an optimistic soul, so at times over the years I’ve had more faith in this Falcons team than has been warranted. Many times, in fact.

Know this to be true, though: In my 12 years of running this site, I’ve never seen such a talented Falcons team. They’re better and deeper just about everywhere than they were in 2008, 2010, 2012, and even 2016, with stars and young promise and ageless wonders kicking impossible field goals. Okay, just one ageless wonder.

That’s why it’s impossible for me to be down on this team. Things can and often do go wrong, but this is one of the best rosters in football, with a coaching staff that needs to get better at in-game management but remains superb at getting the most out of players. With a third-place schedule and lucky breaks starting in the first week with the Eagles being so banged up, there are many reasons to think the Falcons are on a collision course with greatness. For a change.

This team can, I think, go at least 11-5 in the regular season, and they have the talent to win a Super Bowl this year in their home stadium. I pray that they do.