The Atlanta Falcons are in a rebuild. It’s obvious to even the most casual of NFL fans. The Falcons are following the typical rebuild cycle. They’ve tried contending and almost achieved it. For the sake of Falcons fans, I won’t go into the “almost” win. The championship window closed, and it closed fast. Atlanta traded away Falcons legends Matt Ryan and Julio Jones for draft capital. After flooding the roster with young/unproven talent this offseason, Las Vegas – and the rest of the NFL world – has meager expectations for the Atlanta Falcons this year.
Around this time, particular sportsbooks come out with their projected win totals on every NFL team. It may be early, but it’s a perfect time for sports channels to start reacting to them. One such channel, CBS Sports, played a game of over/under with their NFL analysts, Emory Hunt and Bryant McFadden. They used Caesars Sportsbook’s projections for the upcoming year. When they got to the Atlanta Falcons, Emory Hunt laughed when he heard the record projection for the Atlanta Falcons.
Caesar Sportsbook projects the Falcons to get five wins this season.
To Bryant McFadden’s astonishment, Emory Hunt picked the over, saying it was “disrespectful.”
Emory Hunt: “Atlanta did a lot of great work.”
Most NFL fans don’t share the same opinion. Whiffing on All-Pro quarterback Deshaun Watson (which may have been a blessing in disguise), trading away franchise-veteran Matt Ryan, and losing Calvin Ridley for a year sounds horrendous for any NFL team.
Emory Hunt, however, disagrees:
“Hear me out… the run game, number one. They brought in Tyler Allgier out of BYU. I think he’s their foundational back along with Damien Williams; which allows Patterson to be that multifaceted option.”
The run game was one of Atlanta’s most significant weaknesses last year. struggled to get big chunks of yardage on the ground, forcing Matt Ryan to work twice as hard to move the team down the field. Cordarelle Patterson was a star but more involved in the passing game.
In terms of the passing game, Emory Hunt believes that Atlanta will be solid there as well:
…also look at the reciever core. [The Falcons] drafted Drake London. They also bring in, via trade, Bryan Edwards, another big-body wide reciever. They have Kyle Pitts, who can be a tight end or reciever. So their going to be solid on skill positions.”
Another interesting point from Hunt. The Falcons are considered to have one of the worst receiving corps in the league. Perhaps just more disrespectful to this Atlanta Falcons team?
The offense can handle its own if they play to its strengths. What about defense, though? This Falcons’ team has struggled to stop opponents from scoring for the last few years. Emory Hunt says the defense will improve:
On defense, the second-level is going to be athletic and aggressive. They bring in Lorenzo Carter, they draft Arnold Ebiketie out of Penn State, but they also take Troy Anderson – who I think is going to start at inside linebacker… In the secondary they have one of the best young corners in the league, A.J Terrell. Darrin Hall should step up this season. They also should get improved play from Richie Grant.”
A lot of optimism about the Falcons’ young defensive athletes: if Emory Hunt is correct, this will be a fun year for Atlanta fans to watch their defense improve. He notes the one major flaw the Falcons have: the offensive line. He believes that Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder can make the most of it.
If you’re an Atlanta Falcons fan, maybe there’s more to get excited about this year than you think.
Emory Hunt: “I think the Atlanta Falcons are a six or seven-win team.”
As much as he advocates for the Falcons to improve this year, Hunt doesn’t see them in the playoffs.
However, winning the same number of games after losing your franchise quarterback would be a successful season in Arthur Smith’s book. Any Falcons fan would take a 7-10 win season, especially if the young players on the team continue to develop.
Bryant McFadden picked the under and ripped apart every point that Hunt made. He’s also not the only analyst who thinks the Falcons will be abysmal. So, not everyone thinks the Falcons can exceed expectations.
This season may be one of the strangest in Falcons’ history: no clear expectations, a coach who says they’re competing, a new quarterback for the first time in more than a decade, and a plethora of new talent ready to show that they can lead this team.
Whether a fan or a hater, the Atlanta Falcons will be exciting to watch all season long.
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