Let’s get this out of the way up front: No one should expect Mike Davis to put up 16 or 17 touchdowns the way that Derrick Henry did the past two years in Tennessee. I’m optimistic about what Davis can do, but Henry is one of the best in the league and an absolute freak of nature.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect plenty of scoring from the team’s newest lead back. Let’s take a look at what history tells us about the Falcons, lead running backs and total touchdowns.
Last year, Todd Gurley may not have been particularly effective overall, but he did a strong job of getting into the end zone (once when the Falcons didn’t really want him to, even). He was able to pound the rock in 9 times over 15 games for Atlanta. Meanwhile, Mike Davis had a solid year as well, rushing for 6 touchdowns and catching 2 more in just 15 games (12 starts). If we extrapolate those performances to 17 games, we would get to just over 9 touchdowns total for Davis and just over 10 for Gurley. Given Arthur Smith’s success with running the ball in the past, we’ll bump this number to 12 total touchdowns (rushing and receiving) in 2021.
The case for the over
Having Derrick Henry helps, but Arthur Smith is a play-caller that understands how to keep defenses off balance. His offense is predicated on fielding formations that the team can pass or rush out of and he seems to have a keen eye for when to call the right play. This alone should help boost the performance of a woeful running game for Atlanta.
Davis was arguably a better back than Gurley in 2020 and he has very little wear on the treads. Grabbing 12 total touchdowns seems very doable, particularly since Davis has proven to be a rather capable receiver out of the backfield.
The case for the under
Kyle Pitts. Calvin Ridley. Russell Gage. Hayden Hurst. These are players who are going to be pulling in receiving touchdowns. Smith leaned heavily on Henry because he was one of the best players the Titans had. Arthur Smith may find that having Matt Ryan and some of the top-flight weapons on hand will open up more for the passing game, and that could lead to another big year for the veteran QB.
That’s going to take some opportunities away from Davis, who is likely gogoing to surrender some touches to Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, and maybe even a rookie like Javian Hawkins or Caleb Huntley. He should get close to the baseline, but it’s not unreasonable to think the ball distribution may keep him a little short of hitting it. It is the first time he’s the clear-cut lead back going into a season, so this is all uncharted territory for Davis.
Falcons O/U: Mike Davis TDs
This poll is closed
Give me the over
I’ll take the under