2015 NFL Preview: Atlanta Falcons

2015 NFL Preview: Atlanta Falcons

The Mike Smith era in Atlanta peaked in the January 2013 Conference Championship defeat to the 49ers. The following two seasons yielded a pathetic 10-22 record, which was more than enough to cost Smith his head coaching job. Former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is now the man in charge of reversing the Falcons’ fortunes for the better. The passing game is still potent thanks to Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White, but the rest of the roster is rife with uncertainty. Both the offensive line and backfield are searching for answers, and the defense is incredibly low on legit talent. However, Quinn has the energy and smarts to mold the team into playing above their heads, providing they aren’t beset by a rash of injuries. Here’s a preview of the 2015 Atlanta Falcons.

Outlook: The NFC South was a dumpster fire in 2014. So much so that Carolina seized the division crown with a 7-8-1 mark. Those same Panthers return pretty much the same bunch, New Orleans traded away Jimmy Graham, and Tampa is in full-on rebuild mode. As such, Atlanta has a solid chance to secure a playoff berth if they improve just a little bit in all three phases. Matt Ryan is as steady as any quarterback in the league, but he needs help from the running game and defense to maximize his potential. A fast start is imperative because the schedule gets “easier” towards the middle of the season.

Later, dude: The duo of Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers flashed as playmakers during their tenures, but neither was worth retaining, especially Douglas who was handed $11.2 million over three years from the Titans. Defensive tackle Corey Peters was a decent starting option for five years, but the contract offer from Arizona was too rich to match. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is a skilled player, but injuries plagued him for all four of his years in ATL; he’s now a Cardinal. The defensive back trio of Dwight Lowery, Robert McClain, and Josh Wilson contributed heavily to the 2014 secondary ranking dead last in passing yards allowed, so neither of them will be missed. Guard Justin Blalock retired, and tackle Sam Baker was released after sitting out last season and underachieving for most of his career.

Welcome aboard: Adding Redskins free agents usually isn’t a wise plan of action, but that didn’t stop the front office from signing three in Leonard Hankerson, Chris Chester, and Tyler Polumbus. If nothing else, they provide depth. Linebacker Brooks Reed was handed a 5-year, $22 million deal to be the leader in the middle of the newly-aligned 3-4 scheme. Rookie Vic Beasley can get after the quarterback, but he must refine his technique if he hopes to contribute early. Adrian Clayborn has the size and strength to anchor one of the defensive end positions. Third-round tailback Tevin Coleman has the speed and elusiveness to be the featured guy.

Over/Under wins – 8.5: They play the entire NFC East before Week 6, and finish with division tilts in four of the last games. If the defense is just average, nine wins is possible. Not feelin’ it.

Bet the Under