A new era in Atlanta Falcons football begins this Sunday. For the first time in more than a decade, the team will be led by someone other than Matt Ryan. After trading away the stalwart signal caller, the Falcons quickly signed Marcus Mariota and a bevy of other veterans to team-friendly deals. Expectations must be tempered, though. The organization has the least amount of cap dollars allocated to active players on the roster and nearly $20 million less than the second-to-last Browns. So will the Falcons string together a few improbable victories to win more than four games?
2022 NFL odds, courtesy of FanDuel
2022 NFL Odds: Falcons Over/Under Win Total Odds
Over: 4.5 (-120)
Under: 4.5 (+100)
Why The Falcons Will Win 5 Games
I don’t even think everything has to go right for the Falcons to win five games. The roster is comprised of quality players to pull off a few upsets; however, they will need a bit of luck in the injury department, primarily Marcus Mariota. Not that Desmond Ridder can’t play in a pinch, the veteran just gives Atlanta the best chance to win right now.
The Falcons have a few question marks that will have to work themselves out as well. The offensive and defensive lines have long been the butt of jokes in Atlanta, but we’re going to see a new combination along the offensive front this season. Drew Dalman, the second-year player out of Stanford, will start at center, while Elijah Wilkinson, a veteran journeyman, will assume Jalen Mayfield‘s role at left guard. The influx of new blood could rejuvenate the entire offense, leading to 5+ wins.
The defensive line has a couple of exciting, emerging players too. Ade Ogundeji, Ta’Quon Graham, and Arnold Ebiketie all are promising prospects. The pass rush has been non-existent for years. These young pieces will undoubtedly play a positive role in Dean Pees’ defense, but it would be overzealous to think they’ll be an even average pass rushing unit. However, to win just five games, they don’t need to be. They just can’t be the absolute worst.
Why The Falcons Won’t Win 5 Games
Which version of Marcus Mariota will the Falcons get? He certainly had some bright moments, leading Tennessee to the playoffs. But he was also replaced by Ryan Tannehill after wild inconsistencies. If the Falcons’ offense sputters behind Mariota, or the injury-prone veteran misses time, and the same thing happens with Desmond Ridder as the signal caller, this team doesn’t have a chance.
The offensive line could also not improve, forcing the Falcons quarterback(s) constantly to play off-script. Drake London’s health will be critical as well. He dealt with a significant injury during his last year with USC and is already showing up on the Falcons’ injury report.
Defensively, the pass rush is still pedestrian, and the young safety tandem proves to be a sore spot on the backend. There are few bright spots on the team in this scenario.
Final Falcons Win Total Prediction
After going 7-10 in 2021, I think it’s incredibly likely the Falcons will win fewer games this season but still eclipse the 4.5-win total. The playmakers added on both sides of the ball should prove fruitful. And Mariota’s mobility should cover up Atlanta’s suspect offensive line. In its second year under Pees, the defense should also take a step forward. My prediction is six wins for the good guys.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire