After a 7-10 season in Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot’s first year in Atlanta, the Falcons look dramatically different heading into 2022. The team carved out a little more cap space, traded Matt Ryan after trying to trade for Deshaun Watson, lost Calvin Ridley for the year, added Marcus Mariota and drafted Desmond Ridder, and turned over a solid portion of the roster with an eye on infusing youth and upside into it.
The team’s big splashes are all ahead of them in 2023 and beyond, when they’ll have the cap space and hopefully the foundation to be legitimate contenders for the long haul, but ideally they’d make a big push for the NFC South in 2022 as well. I think as a fanbase, we broadly agree the roster is better, but the question is how much better.
Will they contend for real this season, sparring with the Buccaneers and maybe Saints for the NFC South crown? Where will the Falcons finish 2022, record-wise? Our roundtable weighed in on those questions, and we welcome you to do the same.
I wrestled between 5 and 6 wins this season but ultimately decided the tie should go to this coaching staff. Things are undoubtedly bleak but we are in year 2 of the new regime. We should have some better progress into scheme-fit players and I anticipate the team to look better as a whole. But this schedule is an absolute menace. The Falcons lost Matt Ryan. There are still too many new players. 6-11 would be an improvement (in light of the schedule) over last year’s 7-10 record. — Matt Chambers
For most of the summer, I’ve expected the Falcons to win 4 games, but the positive play of several players during preseason inspired me enough to bump their win total up one more game. I’d like to thank the Academy and rookie sensation Desmond Ridder for that.
And while the Falcons are a better team than they were a year ago, their overachieving win total a year ago was mostly a reflection of having one of the softer schedules. They won’t be so lucky this year, especially early on.
I expect a more competitive team against the quality opponents they face, but I’m not sure they have quite enough firepower on offense and stopping power on defense to win those close matchups. It results in a lot of scrappy efforts that ultimately end in heartbreak. So the 2022 Falcons will be a better team on the field, but a worse team in the win column. —Aaron Freeman
I truly wish I could sit here and tell you that I legitimately think the Falcons could go out there and challenge for a playoff spot but this team feels a bit far from that goal. The teardown has happened, and while I am excited about some of the young talent on the roster moving forward, this team just does not have the foundational pieces necessary to make any real noise this season.
I even think this roster is better overall than the one we saw over 17 games last season, but the schedule also looks far more daunting than the one against whom the Falcons won seven games. This is a transitional year and that’s ok. I think the team will play hard every week and show some fight but the talent just isn’t enough to compete with most of the teams on the schedule. — Adnan Ikic
I’ve been sitting at 6-11 for months, and at war with myself over whether that’s where the team will end up. After all, they’re a better football team on balance than they were a year ago, with the coaching staff having seemingly taken to heart the many ways they fell short in 2021. Shouldn’t that mean more wins?
I wrote down 6-11 here again, went through the schedule one more time carefully, and added one victory because I believe the Falcons will surprise somewhere in the final stretch of the season, dispatching one of the Washington, Pittsburgh, and Arizona trio. Perhaps I just have talked myself into it thanks to summer hype and a few encouraging signs.
After all, Atlanta was a 4-to-5 win team masquerading as a 7 win squad, with the worst point differential of any 7 win (and, depressingly, 6 win) team in NFL history and only one win by more than a single score (they beat the Panthers by 8). Their improvements this offseason at cornerback, running back, wide receiver, and several other positions are real, and the added mobility that Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder bring to the table will make the offense an interesting challenge for opposing defenses.
It’s just that neither line seems all that upgraded, Atlanta’s still leaning heavily on the unknown and the unproven across the roster, and they have a brutally tough schedule that has them playing a few of the best teams in the league right away. This is a team heavily reliant on growth for both the roster and the coaching staff, and growth takes time. My obnoxious optimism and sky-high hopes for this team are just on layaway until 2023. As Steve Wyche wrote the other day, this team will be better than people think, but isn’t there yet.
And yes, the Falcons have a higher ceiling than this if everything clicks, as we all hope it does. It just will require a lot of growth and a lot of breaks along the way, and I’m sure not we’ll see enough of either in 2022 to have the Falcons flirting with greatness. —Dave Choate
When you look at the team’s tough schedule combined with the loss of a franchise quarterback, it’s easy to see why the total is so low. But with improvements nearly everywhere else on the roster and hopefully a few more moves coming in the trenches after final cuts, I like Atlanta to outperform expectations a little.
I’m sticking with my offseason projection of a 6-11 finish for the Falcons in the 2022 NFL season. They’ll be a better team, statistically, than their 2021 counterparts, but won’t match their win total due to a tough schedule and a bit of regression to the mean in winning close games—where they were downright elite last year. —Kevin Knight
I initially predicted a 6-11 record when the Falcons’ 2022 schedule was first released and we saw the daunting task ahead. Now, I’m adjusting slightly after having seen the team up close in training camp and the preseason. I feel that the floor of this team will be higher, which should result in many more close games - even against the good teams. But the real reason for my slight uptick is that each NFL season is a true crapshoot, and a handful of teams we all think will be good have their seasons fall apart for one reason or another, and a handful of teams we think will be bad end up surprising.
I’m not predicting Atlanta to fall into that truly “surprising” category, but I think they will be a professionally competent NFL team, which could prove to be enough to get them back to a 7-10 record. However, the expectations will then certainly be higher in 2023, when the roster should have more veteran talent. — Will McFadden
How many wins will the Falcons finish with in 2022?
This poll is closed
0-2, I’m bracing for the worst
16-17, I’m delirious with optimism