2015 Atlanta Falcons Predictions: 3rd NFC South (2014 record: 6-10)
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
NFC South Division Odds: +150
Super Bowl Champion Odds: +3000
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 8.5 (even), Under 8.5 (-130)
Key Additions: Tevin Coleman (RB), Vic Beasley (DE/OLB), Adrian Clayborn (DE)
Key Losses: Steven Jackson (RB), Jacquizz Rodgers (RB), Harry Douglas (WR)
For the past decade or so, offense has never been an issue for Atlanta; weapons like Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Michael Turner, and the rest have always produced well under former head coach Mike Smith and his ‘Air Coryell’ style. Last season, despite the efforts of QB Matt Ryan, the team was unable to remain efficient on offense and that, when combined with another porous defense, spelled doom for the Smith regime. Enter defensive guru Dan Quinn and a new era for the franchise.
Quinn’s defenses have always been some of the most physical in the league, usually led by a strong pass rush and a dominant secondary. So it makes sense that the team’s first two draft picks were Beasley, who dominated at Clemson last season, and Jalen Collins, a big cornerback. If he wins that CB slot, he’ll start next to a really good, physical CB in Desmond Trufant. If not, he’ll be an upgrade in the nickel package.
The safety position isn’t as fortunate; upgrades were needed by not addressed. Deep throws could be a problem, especially if the perpetually anemic pass rush doesn’t improve drastically. Twenty-two sacks in a passing league is completely unacceptable. Beasley and Clayborn should help immediately, especially if the latter has fully recovered from a torn biceps. He’s had great showings in OTAs and looks healthy and focused. The remainder of the front seven is adequate, but lacks true specialists. This squad should be better under Quinn’s guidance, but still needs an injection of talent.
The offensive woes are certainly not the fault of Matt Ryan, who enjoyed a fine season with nearly 4,700 yards, 28 TDs and only 14 INTs. Also not at fault; Julio Jones, who obliterated defenses for nearly 1,600 yards and 104 catches. They were unable, though, to find a viable replacement for Tony Gonzalez, and Ryan missed that reliable outlet. Tony Moeaki or Jacob Tamme certainly won’t be the answer, despite the focus that new OC Kyle Shanahan places on the TE position.
WR Roddy White has played with some nagging injuries over the past two seasons and, at 34, will most likely continue a decline in production. Also still lacking is a consistent running attack. Devonta Freeman was underwhelming as a rookie, and new rookie Tevin Coleman isn’t quite NFL ready yet. The line looks to be simply adequate, but if Jake Matthews has recovered from a foot injury that hampered him last year they could see a nice improvement.
The division still isn’t the strongest out there, so the Falcons could see some success against the rest of the NFC South. The rest of the schedule, though, is tough – a .500 record outside of the division could be tough to achieve. Quinn will improve the defense just by his style and presence, but the offense might be lagging behind just a bit now. UNDER