5. Devonta Freeman makes the Pro-Bowl
This one is merely health dependent. If you go back to the 2017 season, Freeman played through injury for a significant portion of the year, and I’m not sure he ever fully recovered heading into 2018. Last year, he only played in two games, suffering two major injuries before being shut down. Now, after a lengthy layoff, all the talk is about how good he looks, and most importantly, how healthy he feels. I think people forget that Freeman was a top-five running back in the league with versatility few players can match. As the featured back in an offense that should put up loads of points, I like his odds to return to the Pro-Bowl this year for the third time.
4. Isaiah Oliver proves to be a much better option than Robert Alford
I believe I’m one of the few people that genuinely appreciated Robert Alford. He had his moments in a Falcons uniform, but they were overlooked because of his tendency to commit way too many penalties. He needed to be cut, and I think his replacement will be able to fill his shoes. Oliver is a second-year corner out of Colorado that many scouts were high on coming out of college. He played sparingly last season, which frankly I was a little surprised about because of how porous Atlanta’s secondary was. With that being said, I’m expecting big things from Oliver in his first year as a starter. Most players make giant leaps from year one to year two, and this guy has the attributes to be a star at the corner position opposite Desmond Trufant.
3. Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones each catch for 1,000 yards
Health providing – Julio Jones is a certified lock for 1,000 yards. However, I don’t think people around the league realize just how good Calvin Ridley is, and they are about to find out this season. Ridley’s route running skills are some of the best you’ll see in a young wide receiver. He’s fast; he’s quick, and he’s only going to get stronger as he continues in this league. I’m a firm believer Ridley can be an elite receiver at some point in his career. With Jones taking up a ton of double coverages, Ridley should thrive in year two.
2. Matt Ryan becomes the third QB ever to record 40 TDs and less than 10 INTs
I will not take any Matt Ryan slander. He’s the most underrated QB in football and possibly of all-time. He’s five touchdowns away from tying John Elway for the 11th most touchdown passes in league history. Had the Falcons coaching staff not blown a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl, Ryan’s legacy would have been cemented.
About three seasons ago, Ryan turned the corner from borderline elite to one of the best QBs in the league. The biggest difference – protecting the football. Ryan only threw seven interceptions in 2016 compared to 38 touchdowns on his way to the MVP; his adjusted interception rate in 2017 was among the best in the league, and he only threw seven interceptions last season compared to 35 touchdowns behind a dismal offensive line.
This year, the offensive line should be better. Devonta Freeman returns, and Calvin Ridley has another year of development under his belt. But perhaps the most crucial factor in him reaching 40 TDs this season is that 13 of the Falcons 16 games will be played indoors. Ryan thrives in domes and is not nearly as effective outside. And the three games he does play outdoors are in Carolina, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco. He won’t exactly be battling the elements this year.
1. Mohamed Sanu throws multiple touchdown passes
This one is more of a fun gut-call. I don’t think anybody can dispute; Mohamed Sanu throws the best deep ball on the team. Dirk Koetter is a creative OC and loves to throw the football. I expect him to have a few trick plays in his pocket to let Sanu sling it, and I think the Falcons wide receiver throws for multiple TD passes.