Falcons among teams most likely to end playoff drought in 2023

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It’s been five seasons since the Falcons were in the playoffs and six since a postseason contest was played in Atlanta, but that drought will end in 2023.

Arthur Smith has led the club to back-to-back 7-10 finishes, despite featuring a pedestrian roster in each season. It’s no fault of his own, though. Terry Fontenot and the front office had to deal with incredible amounts of dead money to build the roster after moving off several aging, expensive players.

To begin the 2022 season, the Falcons led the league in salary cap space allocated to players not on the roster, about 40% of the total cap. Now, the club is out from underneath a majority of the dead money, enabling Fontenot to participate in free agency with no financial limitations, netting a haul of difference-makers.

That personnel improvement is substantial, despite most people still not believing in what’s being built in Atlanta. The Falcons were competitive in most of their contests last year with virtually no talent on the roster. Making the playoffs isn’t only possible, it’s likely, and Adam Schein of NFL.com agrees.

I really like the feel of Arthur Smith’s team, largely because of … well … Arthur Smith. He’s an offensive guru, a detail-obsessed workaholic. That’s why Atlanta is in almost every game it plays, regardless of opponent. Some people dwell on the fact that he’s gone 7-10 in each of his first two years in the big chair. I still think the world of Smith — and believe he’ll benefit greatly from a highly productive offseason in Atlanta.

I love how GM Terry Fontenot attacked free agency and the draft. Let’s start with the latter, where the Falcons boldly selected RB Bijan Robinson at No. 8 overall. Absolutely loved the pick. Miss me with the positional-value talk — Robinson’s a unique offensive weapon who’ll drive defensive coordinators crazy right off the bat. You think it’s going to be fun game-planning for an offense that has Bijan, Drake LondonKyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson? And getting back to free agency for a second, Fontenot improved the defense at every level, adding guys like defensive linemen Calais Campbell and David Onyemata, linebacker Kaden Elliss and safety Jessie Bates.

I think the Falcons can win 10 games this year and make the playoffs via the wild card.

I agree with Schein in every facet… except for his final point. The NFC South is wide open. There’s no doubt that the Falcons could punch their ticket to the postseason via a Wild Card spot. That’s certainly in the realm of possibilities, but it’s not what I foresee happening.

Though I believe in the Falcons roster as well as Arthur Smith and Desmond Ridder‘s projectability, my conviction is more based upon what the Saints aren’t. New Orleans features the better quarterback, and it’s not close, but that’s where it ends.

For the longest time, the Saints dominated the Falcons in the trenches. That is no longer the case. Atlanta’s lines, on both sides of the ball, are superior to the big guys in New Orleans. Moreover, Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael will hold a playoff-caliber roster back. The pair showed no ability to lead a football team last year, and the team got worse in most facets.

The Falcons will win the division and host a playoff game for the first time since that magical Super Bowl run.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

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