Despite the embarrassment on national television on Thursday night, the Falcons are outpacing preseason expectations. With one of the worst rosters in the league, Arthur Smith has had an impressive first half of the season, amassing four wins through Week 10. I’m not trying to spin Atlanta’s performance against the Panthers on Thursday Night Football in a positive light, but looking at the full body of work, the Falcons are still ahead of their rebuilding schedule.
To begin the season, USA Today, among other national outlets, predicted the Falcons to have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. And a part of me agreed with them. Entering the season, Atlanta had the most dead money in the league and then traded Deion Jones prior to the league’s deadline to add to it. If it weren’t for the Bears trading two of their highest-paid players in Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, the Falcons would have the least amount of money allocated to active rostered players.
Amid a rebuild, the team had little-to-no expectations coming into the season. Smith’s first campaign netted a 7-10 finish, but the club fully committed to the future by trading Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in back-to-back offseason. The roster is comprised of young, inexperienced players and cheap veterans; not many people expected this team to eclipse the preseason win total Vegas had set.
Well, all the Falcons have to do is win one more game to eclipse their 4.5-win total oddsmakers set at the beginning of the season, which I said was an absolute lock in July. With games against the Bears, Commanders, Steelers, and Saints, there’s no reason the Dirty Birds can’t squeak out one more win. In fact, I expect them to finish with a couple more wins at a 6-11 or 7-10 record.
The team should welcome A.J. Terrell back soon, which will be an emphatic upgrade at corner. Thankfully, the Falcons have a mini-bye week before their next contest against the Bears at home in Week 11; that should be plenty of time for Terrell to heal up and Arthur Smith to prepare for a one-dimensional offense led by Justin Fields.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire