The 2023 NFL Preseason has, mercifully, come to an end for the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta managed a 1-1-1 record this preseason, with a very impressive opening win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, an encouraging tie against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2, and a complete collapse by the depth against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3.
The good news is that Week 1 of the NFL season is fast approaching. We’re just two weeks away from the Falcons kicking off against the Carolina Panthers at home. Atlanta hasn’t won a season-opener since 2017, which is coincidentally the last time this team had a winning record. So the team could snap both of those unfortunate streaks with a victory over a rebuilding Panthers team.
I think it’s universally agreed upon that the Falcons have drastically improved the talent level on their defense, and that we should expect a better—if still maybe not quite “good”—unit in 2023. The bigger questions lie on offense, where the team spurned talking heads and quite a significant section of the fanbase by refusing to pursue a high-end quarterback prospect in favor of handing the keys to 2022 third-rounder Desmond Ridder.
Ridder has obviously been a hot topic around here ever since he was drafted. He’s had a fairly strong training camp, and on one drive in the preseason, marched the offense right down the field before a fluky interception (that was not at all his fault) ended it. Still, with just four thoroughly mediocre regular season games under his belt, there’s a lot of skepticism surrounding his readiness to be the starter.
Earlier this week, we asked Falcons fans about their confidence in Ridder as the starter in 2023. The results were pretty surprising: a whopping 87% of fans surveyed were at least somewhat confident in Ridder.
The simple majority were “somewhat” confident in Ridder, which checks out—I think most of us feel like he’ll at least be a solid starter for the team this season. But I was pretty shocked to see another 34% express that they’re “very” confident in Ridder. Am I sensing optimism in the fanbase for the first time in awhile?
On the negative side, just 11% were “not very confident” and just 2% were entirely out on Ridder. Here’s to hoping that the Ridder, and the team as a whole, can silence the doubters and give even more hope to the optimists.
One other interesting nugget: a majority of NFL fans predict the New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South in 2023.
In second are our beloved Atlanta Falcons (20%), but that’s not as impressive when you consider the Carolina Panthers are at 14% and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at 12%. It feels a little disrespectful to me, but I’m obviously biased.
What are your thoughts on Ridder as the starter in 2023, and your predictions for the NFC South this season?