Chase Irle: Atlanta fooled most of us with their 5-0 start to last season. By week 8, we found out the Falcons still had major issues on both sides of the ball. They adressed most of those by adding the likes of Mohammed Sanu, Alex Mack and Keanu Neal. However, the defense is still lacking talent. The pass rush still needs help, and unless Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell can step up, the linebacking core will continue to be one of the worst in the NFL. On the other hand, the offense will be one of the best in the NFL. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will be one of the best duos at the running back position, Julio Jones anchors a revamped receiving core, and Matt Ryan is poised for a bounce back year after a poor 2015 campaign. I am not worried about Ryan one bit. He will have a huge year and will look more like the quarterback that played in 2012 than 2015.
The biggest problem for the Falcons in 2016 is their schedule. The NFC South is already one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. The Panthers, Saints and Bucs are all capable of going over .500. The Falcons also have matchups with the Cardinals, Seahawks, Broncos, Packers and Chiefs. All of whom made the playoffs last season. Its going to be a grind every week, but this offense should be able to put points up against anyone. If the defense can continue to improve, the Falcons will have a better record than last year and compete for a wild card spot.
Michael Arkin: Overall, the Falcons have improved at the positions of need from last season. The team has a tough schedule but has a lot of potential. With a revamped offensive line, a terrific receiving core and an electric running back duo, it is up to Matt Ryan to preform much better than he did last season. I expect that to happen. This offense is going to put up a lot of points. On defense, it is likely to be the same story. The Falcons failed to really address the pass rush this offseason, and until that happens, it is going to be really hard for Dan Quinn to make this defense great. Quinn found a way to put together a pretty decent defense last year with lackluster personnel. He has some new pieces, but the Falcons will be lucky to finish in the top half of the league on defense.
Atlanta is going to surprise a lot of teams. The offense has all the tools to be great, and Quinn has proven to get the most out of his defensive players. The Falcons will finish in the top 10 in run defense and hit the double-digit win mark on their way to a wild card berth.
Brandon Sudge: Atlanta relied too much on their star receiver Julio Jones last season, which led to one of the worst years of Matt Ryan’s career. With Justin Hardy beginning to come into is own and the addition of Mohammed Sanu, I look forward to a more diverse approach in the passing game. As far as the defense, Quinn did wonders with what he had in his first season. He is continuing to add more pieces, and the defense will take more steps in the right direction. The Falcons are improving as a football team, but due to their gauntlet of a schedule, their record will be the same.
Harrison Coburn: The Falcons will be an improved product this year. The offense will be better in year two of Kyle Shanahan, and the defense should be better with all the young players. I cannot wait to see Keanu Neal and the effect he has in Quinn’s defense. It is going to be improved all-around, but the record might not show it. The key to the season is going to be their divisional matchups. Last season, Atlanta only managed to squeeze out one victory in those matchups. If they fail to win more this season, they will be getting a top 5 draft pick in 2017. They will win more of those games, but I am not willing to give them more than a .500 record in the division. The NFC South is tough, and the Falcons will struggle to make it to .500 on the season.
Shailin Singh: The Falcons 2016 schedule is rough. This could be a long year, with about half our games coming against 2015 playoff teams, while also meeting up with some young up-and-coming teams such as Oakland and Los Angeles. If Atlanta can stay healthy and the offense and defense both take steps forward, I don’t think the year will be as dreadful as it seems.
I expect us to win most of our easier games, but the improving Bucs could give us some trouble on the road. LA and Oakland are both away, west-coast games against teams that have tough defenses and dynamic offenses, so those could both end up as losses. In my opinion, the Chiefs are an underrated team that could come into the dome and give Dan Quinn and company a really rough time, especially with Jamaal Charles back. The trips to Seattle and Green Bay are always two of the toughest games for any team, and neither look like they are on the decline any time soon. At Carolina was an absolute mess for the Falcons last year, and I expect them to split the series again, with the home teams winning both. I think we can earn some eye-opening wins against Denver and Arizona, but they are contingent on our offense being explosive and efficient, as they both have defenses that can absolutely shut opponents down.
Prediction: 9-7 (Losses @ Oakland, @ Seattle, v. Green Bay, @ Tampa Bay, v. Kansas City, @ Los Angeles, @ Carolina)