The Atlanta Falcons kick off their 2020 season this Sunday, and we can’t let the new football year start without putting our record predictions on paper for later reflection.
Last year we did this same exercise, and you can read the glowing sense of optimism from all of the writers before the Falcons crushed us with another sub-.500 season. Every member of the staff predicted a winning record, with a few of us going as far as predicting an 11-5 mark (oops).
Let’s see if we learned our lesson after back to back 7-9 seasons, or if autumn hope truly is eternal.
Let’s get things started.
This team has really beaten me down the past couple of years - I constantly go the optimistic route, and have been let down in back to back seasons as a result.
I can’t ignore the talent of this team though. Matt Ryan is the best quarterback in the division, the offensive line and the run game should both be improved going into next year, and this defense has the potential to be Dan Quinn’s best unit on that side of the ball since 2017.
The division is improved with Tampa Bay going all-in this season, and the schedule will be more difficult with games against the NFC North and AFC West so I will check my expectations in comparison to last year. However, I still see a winning record and a Wildcard berth in this team’s future.
Record Prediction: 9-7
Falcons football is back, so it’s time to predict how the season will go. As always, nobody really knows because this team is pretty unpredictable, even with a 7-9 record the last two seasons. I’m slightly nervous, because I’m pretty optimistic about this team. It’s a similar feel to the 2016 preseason where I liked what I saw on paper but had no idea if it would actually translate to the field.
With that being said, the NFC South is likely to be the toughest, or one of the toughest in the league. When you look at how many quality players were added to all three teams (not the Carolina Panthers) it’s going to be tough. Although the stats in my recent Madden 21 simulation series aren’t very realistic, I think the record prediction has some weight to it. It would be enough to make the playoffs, which is all I care about.
Record Prediction: 9-7
Where records are concerned, you have to look first at the division you play in. For the Falcons, they’re in a tough one. Tom Brady instantly gives the Bucs an air of credibility while Drew Brees and the Saints (with their improved defense) have to be considered the current favorites to win the division. Playing the NFC West only adds to the difficulty.
That said, Atlanta has made a lot of improvements across the board by signing guys like Todd Gurley and Dante Fowler Jr. Will it be enough? It can be, but much will depend on coaches like Dirk Koetter and Raheem Morris. That should be enough to get us to a winning season, but just barely. I feel like this is a playoff team, but just barely.
Record Prediction: 9-7
Am I going to be the dour one here? So be it.
I’ve said all along that it was difficult for me to see this team go better than .500 this year without major changes and improvements. They’ve gone 7-9 each of the past two seasons, after all, and I felt pretty good about those rosters winning games. To get beyond that 7-9 to 9-7 range I found myself in, this would have to be a transformative offseason.
Guess what? It wasn’t. The draft class looks tremendous and is a big part of the reason I’m excited for the future of the Falcons, but it’s not hard to conclude that the team failed to take a massive step forward this offseason. Dante Fowler is an upgrade on Vic Beasley and possibly a massive one, but is Todd Gurley going to be healthy and effective enough in Dirk Koetter’s notoriously running back-unfriendly offense to put him decisively ahead of Devonta Freeman’s production a year ago? Is Foye Oluokun going to be an improvement on De’Vondre Campbell? What about Hayden Hurst on Austin Hooper, James Carpenter in 2020/rookie Matt Hennessy on 2019 James Carpenter and Wes Schweitzer, A.J. Terrell on Desmond Trufant, and so on and so forth. I think this team takes a step forward from the past two seasons, but many things will have to go well for them to do better than that, and given that these are the Falcons that does not seem like a safe bet.
As is often the case when I’m the negative one, I’ll hope I’m wrong here.
Record Prediction: 8-8
I’m a little more optimistic than my colleagues but that’s fine. As we enter the 2020 season, very few are talking about the Atlanta Falcons. Which as we all know is when they play their best football. The offense has enough playmakers to scare a defense. If newcomer Hayden Hurst is able to prove his first round draft status, that’s another matchup issue that the Falcons will exploit.
In order for the Falcons to stand out amongst other teams, the play of their defense must be productive one . A unit that was 23rd in scoring and 20th overall. I don’t expect considerable improvements across the board but I think they will be a respectable unit. The additions of Dante Fowler Jr. and rookies A.J. Terrell and Marlon Davidson are going to have to catch their footing early because of a tough schedule early on in the season.
They are overlooked which means they can sneak up on teams. I’m not going as far as predicting a Super Bowl trophy but a Wild Card berth in the playoffs and a possible postseason run is not out of the question.
Record Prediction: 10-6
Going into the offseason, I was a big downer on the Falcons’ chances of reaching the postseason. The reasons were mainly due to coaching: I just don’t have faith in Dirk Koetter to get this offense where it needs to be, and I don’t trust that he knows how to run a Shanahan-style scheme effectively. However, the talent on this team is undeniable, and if Raheem Morris can continue the defense’s improvement from the end of 2019 we could have a possible contender on our hands.
All that being said, the Falcons still have to deal with the NFC South—which may be the toughest division in football in 2020. I’m still in wait-and-see mode with the Buccaneers, but you’d be a fool to count them out this year with an ascending defense and less mistake-prone (but more conservative) QB in Tom Brady. Couple that with a Saints squad which might be the most well-rounded in the NFL, and you’ve got a tough road to the postseason. Atlanta could still do it, particularly if Koetter proves me wrong and Morris is as good as we hope, but I don’t see it as likely.
This team is probably going to hover around .500 all season—which means they’re going to be in the playoff hunt until the bitter end—but I see them just missing out. The bigger question is if missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season is enough to convince Arthur Blank to make big changes across the board.
Record Prediction: 8-8
What here is that much different than the 7-9 season in 2018 and 2019? Are they set at offensive coordinator? Defensive coordinator? Special teams coordinator? Defensive line? Offensive line? Running back? Linebacker? Corner? Safety? Kicker?
This is the same answer as the last few years: Maybe. Things could go great. Things could go awful. If the last few years are any indication, things will go both ways at different points. Ultimately, the only proven parts remain Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Deion Jones, and Grady Jarrett, the same as the prior 7-9 seasons.
Record Prediction: 7-9