The Falcons are expected to compete for the NFC South in 2023, and honestly, I think fans would probably be disappointed if they didn’t win it.
That wasn’t the case in either of the other two seasons of the new regime’s tenure. Arthur Smith has posted back-to-back 7-10 finishes with measly rosters because Terry Fontenot didn’t have the resources to build a competitive one.
Now, with a mountain of dead cap in the rearview, the Falcons participated in free agency with no financial limitations. The result was a defensive overhaul, adding big-ticket free agents to all three levels of the defense and most notably along the front.
The club should be much better in 2023, which bodes well for their chances to punch the ticket to the postseason. The division is arguably the worst in football, easily the most winnable next to the NFC North and AFC South, which ironically are the two divisions the Falcons drew this year.
A last-place schedule, a much-improved roster, and a wide-open NFC South… the Falcons should go from worst to first in the division, which is what CBS is predicting. The outlet ranked the Falcons most likely to win their division among 2022 last-place finishers.
Although the Falcons finished at the bottom of the NFC South last year, they really shouldn’t be viewed as a last-place team and that’s because they almost WON the division. At 7-10, the Falcons finished just one game out of first place in the NFC South. They tied with the Saints and Panthers for second and only ended up as the last-place team due to tiebreakers.
The Falcons roster was good enough to compete for a division title last year and they only got better this offseason, which makes them feel like a dark horse to take the division crown in 2022. Offensively, the Falcons are absolutely loaded with players like Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson. If Atlanta can get just average play from both Desmond Ridder and the team’s defense, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to compete for the division title.
The reason the Falcons only need average play from those two spots is because they’re in the one NFC division where average might be good enough to win it.
Fun fact: The Falcons have only gone worst to first one time in franchise history and that came nearly 20 years ago. After finishing in the NFC South cellar with a 5-11 record in 2003, the Falcons rebounded to win the division with a 11-5 record in 2004.
I don’t think describing the Falcons as a “dark horse to take the division crown” is accurate. They have the second-best odds to win the NFC South as it stands today, and the Saints aren’t overwhelming favorites to take it.
The Falcons are an ascending program, while the Saints have continued to flounder since Drew Brees left. This isn’t Sean Payton’s team anymore. Even though they still have a stout defense and the best quarterback in the division, what made the Saints so great for so long was their talent and depth in the trenches, both of which have consistently taken steps back in recent seasons.
Most importantly, coaching matters; Pete Carmichael and Dennis Allen aren’t it. The latter has already proven to be an uninspiring head coach with the Raiders, and the former is as incompetent as it gets on the offensive side of the ball. The defense should still be respectable, but I don’t think Derek Carr is the guy to carry an offense that has question marks along the line and a coordinator without a clue.
Oddsmakers have consistently improved the Falcons division odds over the offseason. The writing is on the wall.
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