Predictions are easy to make and tough to defend. Even the most prescient fan, analyst, or expert often makes wildly inaccurate predictions about how the NFL season is going to unfold, and we’re definitely no exception. We also, either by smarts or good fortune, sometimes nail those predictions.
With that in mind and the bye week giving us a little leisure time, I’ve asked the staff here at The Falcoholic to look back at their record predictions and give us both their best and worst prediction for the 2022 season thus far. Let’s get to it.
Record prediction: 7-10
Best prediction: Tyler Allgeier will lead the team in rushing
Worst prediction: The defense will be significantly improved
I still have faith the Falcons will deliver a 7-10 record—they’ve been unbelievably shaky for the better part of two months now and still almost won multiple games they ultimately lost—but not a lot of faith that the defense is going to find its footing. With some personnel upgrades and another year with Dean Pees to grump expertly over the defense, I assumed we’d see significant gains that would bring the Falcons up somewhere between the 16-24th best defense in the NFL. Instead, they’re once again one of the very worst in the entire league, and I was lured in by a dream that never seems to come to fruition. The hope is that this offseason delivers the kind of impact free agents and draft picks (not to mention growth from key players like Arnold Ebiketie and Richie Grant) that finally allows this defense to take a major step forward.
My faith in Allgeier wasn’t misplaced, though. The rookie running back was buried on the depth chart to begin the season, but he’s arrived in a major way since then, tracking to lead the team in rushing yardage, blocking effectively, catching the ball well, and essentially splitting time with Cordarrelle Patterson. His future is extremely bright, and this backfield figures to be a team strength for years to come. -Dave Choate
Record prediction: 6-11
Best prediction: Best case scenario is seeing scheme improvement
Worst prediction: The loss of Matt Ryan would be a big problem
I was very down on the Falcons to start the season. After all, that was one of the worst offseasons since I became a fan of the team, maybe rivaling 2007. The team was forced to expedite its rebuild, stuck without a quarterback or any notable moves in free agency. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know 2022 wasn’t going to be full of great football.
Most of the way through the season, the Falcons sit at 5-8. While Falcons may outperform my 6-11 prediction, this will end up being pretty close.
For the good, I thought the coaching staff would carry the team and that we should, hopefully, see some improvement thanks to players better understanding the scheme. I may only take partial credit though as this defense is still a disaster. Dean Pees has, for the most part, succeeded with a bend-don’t-break mentality. It still means the Falcons give up gobs and gobs of yards and explosive plays. I’ve decided he’s just a prickly Mike Smith.
I have to absolutely tip my hat to Arthur Smith for creating one of the league’s best and creative run games with components like an undrafted rusher, an ever-changing bunch of nobodies at right guard, a center who can barely snap, and Kaleb McGary. Smith has manufactured the league’s second-highest rushing offense in the league. THIS is the sort of improvement I had been hoping for. Now, god willing, we can see something similar in the passing game with Desmond Ridder under center.
For the bad, I think I was giving 2022 Matt Ryan a bit too much credit. The passing game would certainly be much better with Ryan here. Yet, without Ryan, or even a reasonable semblance of a passing threat, the Falcons are right about where they were in 2021. His loss wasn’t the deathblow I expected, putting the Falcons in competition for the 1st overall pick. That’s nothing against Ryan. Age appears to have caught up to him.
And despite Ryan still being a competent passer, Smith was able to adapt the offense and get a similar result. In fact, the Falcons have improved a number of important team stats: points per game, yards per play, points per drive, drives ending in points are all up. That was unexpected. —Matt Chambers
Record prediction: 6-11
Best prediction: Falcons would improve statistically, but not in the win column
Worst prediction: The offensive line would be the biggest problem on offense
We’ve still got four games left in the 2022 NFL season, but for the most part, I think my record and overall prediction for the Falcons season is pretty much spot on. I believe Atlanta will win at least one more game, possibly two, and meet or exceed my win projection. But either way, I think the heart of my prediction has definitely come to fruition: while this Falcons team has been better statistically than the 2021 version—on both offense and defense, by the way—they’re unlikely to surpass last year’s 7-10 record.
I did think the “tough schedule” would play into it more, but honestly, the schedule has softened up significantly due to opponent injuries and several NFC South teams being far worse than expected. In reality, the Falcons regressed back to the mean in close games after winning almost all of them last season. That’s just the way it goes, and it’s not filling me with concern for the future. The team still needs significant investment in the trenches, particularly on defense.
Speaking of the trenches, I was convinced Atlanta’s offensive line would be their biggest problem on offense. That has definitely not been the case, as outside of Drew Dalman, the line has consistently played better than expected. Chris Lindstrom looks like the best guard in football, and Kaleb McGary is in the midst of a career-best season as both a pass protector and run blocker. Even left guard, which has featured a revolving door of players due to injury, has been fine. I’ve got to hand to offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford: he has absolutely coached this unit up into something respectable. Here’s to hoping Desmond Ridder can show something, as that would go a long way in helping us all feel better about the direction of the team in 2023. —Kevin Knight