Despite just getting out from underneath a mountain of dead money, it’s playoffs or bust for the Falcons in 2023.
No, the expectation shouldn’t be to compete in the postseason. It’s basically Year 1 of Arthur Smith’s tenure as head coach. After going 7-10 in his first two seasons at the helm, the roster is finally in a competitive state following an offseason where the club spent upwards of $250 million in contracts.
Moreover, the Falcons are contending in the worst division in football. The Buccaneers still have exciting pieces but are rebuilding with Baker Mayfield under center. The Panthers enter the first season of a new era under Frank Reich with Bryce Young at quarterback. I do think Carolina will be a force in the near future, but it’s unreasonable to expect them to put it together in just one offseason.
The Saints are the Falcons’ biggest competitive in the NFC South. New Orleans is the odds-on favorite, but I’d argue Atlanta’s roster is superior outside of the quarterback position. Obviously, you just can’t disregard the most important position in the sport, which is why Bleacher Report believes the Falcons won’t make the playoffs this year.
“While Atlanta is loaded with rising stars on offense and boasts an improving defense, the lack of star power under center will be this team’s undoing. Barring a drastic move, the team is in real danger of lingering in the NFL’s version of purgatory, faring well enough to miss out on a top pick but not being strong enough to contend for the playoffs.”
Purgatory is a bit dramatic, but I see the writer’s point. The Falcons have a roster that’s young yet talented enough to compete and win the worst division in football; however, there are massive question marks surrounding Desmond Ridder.
Though the people in and around Flowery Branch are high on the third rounder, the jury is still out. I believe he can be an average signal caller in this league, but the chances of that happening immediately are slim. Like all rookies, Ridder is going to go through ups and downs. How Arthur Smith handles those peaks and valleys will be critical.
It doesn’t matter how I feel, though. Bleacher Report is correct. The Falcons’ playoff aspirations hinge on Desmond Ridder. He’s got the supporting cast and the defense to take this club back to the postseason.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire