ESPN’s ceiling and floor for Falcons’ 2023 season

NFL: JAN 01 Cardinals at Falcons

Expectations are rising in Atlanta. The Falcons invested heavily in its roster this offseason, and people, including Arthur Blank, around the organization are anticipating improvement from the first two years of Arthur Smith’s tenure as head coach.

At the very least, that would mean an 8-9 finish; however, I think a lot of Falcons fans would be disappointed with anything under .500 and a playoff berth. With the best roster and weakest NFC South field since taking over, Arthur Smith and the Falcons have no excuse not to punch their ticket to the postseason.

So, what would be the ceiling and floor of Atlanta in 2023? ESPN has their answer — 11-6 and 5-12 respectively.

Ceiling: 11-6 | Floor: 5-12

Biggest X factor: Defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen

If the Falcons’ first-year coordinator is able to create a pass rush with Calais CampbellDavid Onyemata and Bud Dupree (among others) surrounding defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, Atlanta could get its offense more possessions. In 2022, the Falcons ranked 26th in the league with a pass rush win rate of 35.3%. The aggressiveness could also help with creating turnovers, and the secondary has a lot of talent, including former first-round picks A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah at cornerback. — Michael Rothstein

I actually think this is a decent ceiling and floor projection, and there are a few reasons for both scenarios becoming a reality.

The Falcons added talent to the defensive side of the ball, completely overhauling their defense while rounding out the offense. Free agent additions like Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, Calais Campbell, Bud Dupree, and Kaden Elliss are the big names joining Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell. The potential of this unit relies on the young up-and-comers like Richie Grant, Troy Andersen, and Arnold Ebiketie — all of whom are surrounded by veterans at their respective position groups.

The offense is what’s really exciting. Arthur Smith’s unit will feature Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London but don’t forget about Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jonnu Smith. There are also the less thought-about weapons like Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller. It’s got the potential to be a top 10 unit, but there’s one question mark — Desmond Ridder.

I disagree wholeheartedly with the x-factor being Ryan Nielsen; it’s the signal caller. The Falcons’ playoff aspirations rest on Ridder’s shoulders, and it could go down in flames if he doesn’t pan out. The club would have to hit every single bump in the road to win five games. I actually think it’s much more likely that the Falcons reach 11 wins than finish short with just five.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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