2022 Atlanta Falcons Intriguing Storylines

This year is a great year to be a Falcons fan. We might not have the same feelings by week 9, but in the mean time this season is intriguing in ways that fans haven't dealt with in well over a decade. I figured I would put together a short list of the storylines I am watching this season and hopefully make some accurate predictions along the way.

The State of the Division:

The 2022 season has seen a lot of turmoil happen in the NFC South. New Orleans went from perennial playoff contender, to losing their HoF QB, and brilliant offensive HC in back to back seasons. Carolina has obviously thrown in the towel on the Same Darnold experiment, and their HC is sitting on the hottest of seats coming into the season. Tampa Bay has had an excellent offseason. Can Atlanta put themselves in a position to do well against the lowered level of competition within the division and possibly take hold of a long-shot at competing in the post-season? While I think we are still at least a season away from playing in January, I wouldn't be surprised to see the team hit the 7 to 9 win mark. If the rest of the NFL has solid competition that might actually be enough to land them the final wild card slot. So never say never.

How will the team handle the QB battle?:

The unfamiliar position that Atlanta finds itself this season will have huge impacts on the team. Will they let Mariota play and make Ridder wait until next season? Will Ridder be given the chance to earn reps? How often or how early will they let him? Can Ridder snatch the coveted QB1 role by mid-season? Earlier? Considering the impact of this position, the questions are justified. This decision could heavily impact next years draft as well. If the season doesn't go well, Atlanta could very well find itself in a position to take some of the highly touted QB's coming out of college. How will they handle the Ridder situation then? I have a feeling Ridder doesn't get that much of a run at the QB position, but he shows that he will compete in 2023. I also think Atlanta does just well enough that they put themselves out of position to take one of the top two QB's in the upcoming draft, and that solves that issue right off the bat.

Pass rush?

With the lack of personnel churn at the defensive line group, this question might be self-evident, but with the increase in talent on the backend of the defense, and the new intriguing players in the LB room, there is still hope. I have a feeling we see league average or just below this year, which is going to feel like a huge jump for us. AK and Carter should put together a nice pair to create pressure, and Pees will open up blitz packages that will bring heat from multiple places. My gut says this might give us hope that the Falcons are headed in the right direction, and the future might be bright for this team after all.

The return of the Atlanta Falcons run game:

One of my highest hopes for this team in 2022 is that we see an effective run game fielded for the first time in years. The group of Patterson, Williams, and Allegier should provide enough talent that they can come out on Sundays and get something going. I assume there will be teams who just stop us in our tracks, but I have a feeling this team is being built on this run game. The biggest impact of any rookie on offense might just be our 5th round pick. I can easily see Allegier taking his opportunities and taking advantage of them. With the state of our WR group, our run game is going to have undo pressure put on it to keep this team in games. With an offensive line built towards the run game, a QB brought in that can help the run game, and WR's brought in to help the run game, I don't think its a stretch to think that it might actually work.

Can this team finally learn to win?:

This might seem like a dumb question, but to me it is the real challenge at the root of Arthur Smith's job. Atlanta has spent multiple consecutive season underachieving and getting beaten by rookie QB's , bad defenses, and generally anybody and everybody they played. Surprisingly, it wasn't totally due to talent. We had good players for years. There was a sense of comfort with losing that this team had, that most fans felt was the underlying reason for the frustrating showings on Sunday. That locker room mentality seemed to have permeated into every person who came in contact with the team. The coaches, players, even the front office. Smith will be tasked with changing that for a second season. Interestingly in 2021, Smith showed that he might be turning that around. Winning 7 games with a roster almost completely devoid of NFL starting caliber talent was a miracle, and showed a level of grit from the players that we haven't seen in years. Can this team keep that up against a very challenging schedule, where week after week we will be facing some of the best teams in the league. I think this team can do it, and Smith's no nonsense coaching is exactly what the doctored ordered. I wouldn't be surprised to see this team give some much more talented teams a good run for their money, and raising the eyebrows of teams around the league. If anything, I think the days of being a pushover in the league are done, and teams will come to Atlanta prepared for a fight. Which they will get. Hopefully that translates to wins in 2022. If it doesn't it almost assuredly will in 2023 when we will have more talent on the roster and more of an idea of what we have on both sides of the ball.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>