The Atlanta Falcons are an improved football team. Another draft class and a big free agency haul has made that much clear, and the only real question in nearly every corner of this Falcons fanbase is this: Just how good are they?
Records don’t tell the entire story, but they still give us a snapshot of expectations, and as is custom we are predicting the Falcons’ season records as a group just days before the season begins. Peruse ours, tell us if we’re overly optimistic or not optimistic enough—or hell, just right—and then let us know what you’re thinking in the comments.
This season has to be the breakthrough, right? It’s year three of the Terry Fontenot/Arthur Smith regime, and after the first two were spent untangling the salary cap mess left behind by the Thomas Dimitroff front office, they were now finally allowed to spend big to cultivate this roster in the image of their philosophy.
Before Training Camp began, we went through a game by game projection on The Falcoholic Live (catch up Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Youtube) and in doing so, I had a direct realization of just how light this schedule is on paper. My prediction, by the way, was 10-7 and I’ve seen no reason to really stray from that.
The quarterback is a question mark but everything else on offense feels so scintillating — from the skill position group which has garnered three consecutive years of top 10 draft picks, to the much improved offensive line of last year, to Arthur Smith’s modern play calling — and the defense has been heavily invested in. The NFC South is there for the taking. —Adnan Ikic
9-8... with playoffs
I’m a little worried that Atlanta yet again starts off slow. Arthur Smith wants to keep his players healthy, which has been a success, but other teams have starters play meaningful snaps in preseason for a reason. I’m also a little worried we get some stretches with Desmond Ridder inefficient. Perhaps with more snaps in 2022 he could have gotten those kinks worked out early. I’m also a little worried it takes time for this defense to look like a cohesive unit considering the new names and new scheme. Things can definitely workout for double digit wins... but as a Falcons fan I’ve seen a lot of hope dashed.
That isn’t to say the team doesn’t improve over last year. The roster is definitely better. Smith has had a better chance to install his offense. The rest of the NFC South looks terrible. Throw all of that together and I think you have a good shot at a (barely) winning record and a playoff berth. The hope is the team has put it all together by the end of the season. — Matt Chambers
The Falcons have endured five straight seasons of losing, but the light at the end of that shameful tunnel is here. All the changes large and small this offseason and summer have produced a roster that’s markedly better than 2022’s, which was in turn at least a bit better than 2021’s everywhere but quarterback, and that has me expecting more wins.
The circumstances favor Atlanta, as well, given that they have a schedule that promises to be one of the league’s easiest if everything breaks right and a mild challenge if it doesn’t. This is also a team playing in one of the weakest divisions in football, one where a Saints team that also went 7-10 a year ago and did not significantly overhaul its roster is the popular pick for many NFL analysts.
Are these Falcons a finished product? No, there are still stopgaps and developing talent at key positions, and worrying depth at a couple of spots as well. But this looks like a good football team at last, and anything less than a winning season and a run at the NFC South title would surprise me. The Falcons are more talented, having addressed weaknesses and built upon already formidable strengths, and 10-7 feels like a conservative guess if everything breaks right. —Dave Choate
9-8 (11-6 ceiling, 7-10 floor)
Please know I am incredibly excited for the Falcons’ season this year. I think they’re going to be a ton of fun, and I think both sides of the ball will have stretches of combined respectable play this year in ways they haven’t yet in the Arthur Smith/Terry Fontenot era. My main trepidation comes with this schedule, one that could unfold with much more difficulty than it would appear on paper. The roster is better; there’s no doubt about that. I really like Smith as a coach and Fontenot as a general manager, and I have a probably unhealthy amount of confidence in Desmond Ridder’s organic ability to win games combined with his fit in this scheme. Bijan Robinson being drafted here makes me giddy.
However, it is easy just to assume the worst with the Falcons, as it always seems like the hope of the carrot is followed up by the Falconing of the stick. That doesn’t do anyone any favors, though. I think this is a better football team that will win more games, but I also think that the slow-walk approach the team has taken is both wise and might need a bit longer to cook. They’re not as win-now as other teams in the NFL, but I also think that 2023 doesn’t necessarily have to be a win-now year. You want to see progress. I’m not sure if they’ll make the playoffs, but I am sure that they are trending in the right direction. — Cory Woodroof
For months, the feeling I’ve gotten with the Falcons has been that they were a 9-8 team, thanks to my expectations that they’d mostly be a slightly above-average team on either side of the ball. But as I recently went through their entire schedule, I walked away from that exercise projecting 10 wins for the team. Despite that, I doubt it’ll be completely smooth sailing for the team on its way to its first winning season since 2017. There will be ups and downs, but I suspect resilience will win out in the end.
There will be questions throughout the season about Desmond Ridder’s ability to get the job done. But in the end, the improvements made on the defensive side of the ball and the talented core of young playmakers on offense headlined by recent first-rounders like Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts should be enough to lift this team to new heights in Arthur Smith’s third year on the job. — Aaron Freeman
This is an important year for the Falcons, as they’ve now got the weight of expectations after two years of being, more or less, ignored by the national media at large. On paper, this is undoubtedly a better roster than 2021 or 2022. Drastically better in some areas, particularly along the defensive line and at safety. We’ve also got the wild card of Bijan Robinson, who could legitimately stake his claim as the best running back in the NFL this season. There’s still some shakiness at cornerback and wide receiver beyond Drake London, and there’s obviously the big question of Desmond Ridder. Can he do enough to make this team a competitor?
I think the answer is yes, although I don’t expect smooth sailing. At the end of the day, I still think the offense is going to need to pick up the slack for a defense that will probably take time to find its footing. My hope is that while this team could have some early struggles, they’ll pull it together and finish strong with a 10-7 record and a playoff berth. I think that’ll be enough to win the division, too. Because of those expectations, I think anything less than a winning record is going to result in a “hot seat” season for Arthur Smith in 2024. For all our sakes, let’s hope we can avoid that and see some genuinely above-average to good football this year. — Kevin Knight