Falcons: Bold predictions for the 2020 season

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It’s almost hard to fathom, considering there were no preseason games this year, but the start to the 2020 campaign begins on Sunday for the Falcons against a dangerous Seahawks team. Unfortunately there will be no fans allowed in the Benz, but at least we have an excuse to be glued to the couch for an entire day. This is an intriguing year for the Falcons, who have several coaches and front office personnel on the hot seat. With the salary cap expecting to plummet in 2021 thanks to the coronavirus, it is do or die for many of the players as well. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t cautiously optimistic about the Falcons in 2020. Here are my bold predictions for the season:

Matt Ryan finishes Top 3 in MVP voting

I don’t have the stones to come out and say Matt Ryan will win another MVP in 2020. I just think there are too many other fantastic candidates, like Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes. However, Ryan will be in the conversation. He’s been the most underrated quarterback of the last five seasons, and on paper, he will finally have the personnel to put him in the national spotlight again.

The Falcons have always had weapons at the skill positions, but their offensive line has been atrocious. This should be the best line Ryan’s played behind since 2016, which is why I expect him to explode statistically. Election year Matt Ryan is real – 2016 saw him throw for a little under 5000 yards on his way to the MVP and 2012 saw him toss 32 touchdowns to go with 4,700+ yards.

Calvin Ridley racks up 1,300 yards

Just predicting that Calvin Ridley will breakout and catch for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career isn’t a bold prediction. However, if he totals 1,300 yards through the air, that would have put him firmly in the top five for receiving yards last season.

The formula is there for Ridley to have a Chris Godwin-like breakout in 2020. He has the pieces around him that will allow him plenty of looks in one-on-one coverage and the skill to take advantage. Watch out for Calvin Ridley this season.

Hayden Hurst will have more receiving yards than Austin Hooper

One of Atlanta’s headline additions this offseason was acquiring Hayden Hurst from Baltimore for a second-round pick. The South Carolina product suffered an injury as a rookie, allowing Mark Andrews to stake his claim as the lead tight end. Nick Boyle’s blocking is invaluable, which made Hurst the odd man out.

Hurst comes into an offense that loves to throw the ball, and few offensive coordinators feature the tight end in the passing game more than Dirk Koetter. That’s a significant reason why Austin Hooper made such a jump in 2019, and I expect to see the same from Hurst in 2020.

Takk McKinley records 10+ sacks

Call me crazy, but after three underwhelming seasons to start his career, I’m still not off the Takk McKinley bandwagon, which is why I thought the Falcons would eventually pick up his fifth-year option. He just creates so much pressure, and eventually those pressures are going to turn into sacks. 

The UCLA product now has a chip on his shoulder after the Falcons decided to decline his fifth-year option. The biggest reason McKinley is in for a breakout campaign is because of the talent around him. Having guys like Marlon Davidson, Dante Fowler Jr., and Grady Jarrett on the field will help McKinley reach the double-digit sack threshold for the first time in his career. 

Darqueze Dennard proves to be the most valuable addition of the offseason

Dennard is a former first-round pick that has blossomed since moving to the slot. The Falcons somehow were able to pick him up late in the offseason on a one-year deal worth less than $1 million, and I think it will prove to be the steal of the offseason. Atlanta desperately needed depth at cornerback. In Dennard, they picked up a legit starter to add to an already promising group of young defensive backs. 





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