After an enjoyable win over the New York Jets in London, Atlanta Falcons fans might feel a bit more confident in the immediate future of this team. Adnan Ikic outlined the reasons to feel that way last week.
It’s fair to be there, to be honest. The Falcons face manageable games against struggling Miami and Carolina in the next few games before playing a beatable New Orleans on the road. Dallas awaits on Nov. 14, but until then, it might not be the worst time to be a Falcons fan.
Well, as Captain Positivity, you might be surprised to see me list three reasons to be pessimistic about the Falcons going ahead for the rest of the year. I’m not really bullish on this team’s playoff chances, to be frank, even though I’m really excited about the future.
Why do I have to be Mr. Grumpy Gills about the team’s 2021 futures, even if I’m excited about bigger picture things? Here’s my logic.
The team is too young
The 2021 Falcons are soft rebuilding, there’s no doubt about it. The team is finding good return on their 2021 draft class when they actually play it, and as time goes on, guys like Kyle Pitts, Jalen Mayfield, Richie Grant, Ade Ogundeji, Ta’Quon Graham, Darren Hall and maybe even Frank Darby will get more reps as the team lets them grow.
The Falcons may start to sacrifice immediate success for investment in the future, and younger guys like Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, A.J. Terrell, Jaylinn Hawkins, Matt Hennessy, Marlon Davidson, Mykal Walker and Kendell Sheffield should man key parts of the defense, in starting or reserve roles. The team’s going to get its young guys reps, which might lead to as many exciting flashes as frustrating returns.
That’s the nature of youth. Not to mention, first-year head coach Arthur Smith is still learning his responsibilities, too. Not all first years for coaches are the same, and Smith is taking a very standard path to growth in his job. He might still make mistakes, but he’s allowed to at this stage. This team is on the right path, but looks too young and green for mid-January.
The depth is thin
The Falcons don’t have a lot of room to withstand major injuries right now. The team managed against a stout New York Jets defense without Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, but that’s in part because there was some sustained depth with Kyle Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Lee Smith (what a world) able to take some of the load off the passing game.
The team doesn’t really have that ability at other spots right now. Look what happened when A.J. Terrell went down. Imagine if Jake Matthews or Grady Jarrett went down? Or, gulp, Matt Ryan? Think about Deion Jones or Foye Oluokun, even. The Falcons right now have shallow depth, and that’s causing the team to be easily exposed if a proven talent goes down. You can get away with it some weeks, but the Falcons’ margin for error right now is such that any key injury to a starter will immediately produce lesser results unless someone picks up the slack, which is less likely than with past Falcons teams.
When you lack depth, you lack the ability to compete in January. The Falcons aren’t there.
The NFC is loaded
When you’re the fourth-best team in your own division, you know it’s going to be hard to make the playoffs. Right now, the Falcons don’t look too much better or worse than the Carolina Panthers. The New Orleans Saints looks like they’re a bit head, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like they’re a mile ahead.
The rest of the NFC, boasting great teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, isn’t likely to be won by a team like Atlanta. Honestly, you could argue the road is virtually impossible right now for Atlanta even if they did somehow luck into a Wild Card spot with a late-season push. There are just better teams out there right now, and that’s a big reason why you can’t invest too, too much in the idea that the Falcons are in anything but a transitional year.
Sorry to rain on the parade, but those are my thoughts. What about you? How do you feel about the Falcons going ahead? Let us know in the comments.