The way the 2016 Falcons finished their season is no secret. They blew the biggest game of their lives on the biggest stage in the world, and allowed the all-mighty Patriots to continue to rain on the entire NFL’s parade. It’s hard to rebound from a Super Bowl loss in general, so is there anyway the Falcons can come back from that loss?
|Jack Crawford, DE||Paul Worrilow, LB|
|Dontari Poe, DT||Philip Wheeler, LB|
|Andre Roberts, WR||Jacob Tamme, TE|
|Hugh Thornton, OG||Aldrick Robinson, WR|
|Takkarist McKinley, DE (Draft)||Patrick DiMarco, FB|
|Dwight Freeney, DE|
|Chris Chester, OG|
|Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator|
|Richard Smith, Defensive Coordinator|
The NFC representative in the Super Bowl weren't without their losses this offseason. Perhaps the biggest losses weren't even the players. Losing an offensive and defensive coordinator from a Super Bowl season isn't easy, and it'll be interesting to see how this team can respond. The offense still has most of its weapons intact, but without Kyle Shanahan at the helm, it's hard to see this offense keeping pace with the 2016 team who scored 540 points. There's definitely regression here, but with an improved defense, this team could still be a Super Bowl contender.
Getting Dontari Poe in free agency will help bolster the budding young defensive core of the Falcons, and it should provide some great run-stuffing power. Adding Takk McKinley in the draft was also a big move for the Falcons. He had ten sacks and 18 tackles for loss in his final year at UCLA, and he was one of my personal favorite players in this year's draft. The Falcons defense has a lot of key pieces on it, and I think we could see a breakout year for this unit.
|1||@ Chicago Bears|
|2||vs Green Bay Packers|
|3||@ Detroit Lions|
|4||vs Buffalo Bills|
|6||vs Miami Dolphins|
|7||@ New England Patriots|
|8||@ New York Jets|
|9||@ Carolina Panthers|
|10||vs Dallas Cowboys|
|11||@ Seattle Seahawks|
|12||vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|13||vs Minnesota Vikings|
|14||vs New Orleans Saints|
|15||@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|16||@ New Orleans Saints|
|17||vs Carolina Panthers|
The Falcons get to play in their brand new shiny Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year, and the world will see it unveiled under the lights on Sunday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. Overall, the Falcons are scheduled to play in five primetime games this year. Perhaps most notably in Week 7 against the Patriots, which, of course, is at Gillette Stadium. Another slap in the face to the runner-ups, this game will likely be the Falcons biggest challenge of the season.
The Falcons are lucky to have four of their last six games at home. The division won't be an easy one to win this year, and those home wins could be crucial down the stretch of the regular season. Also of note, you may notice that five of their last six games are against divisional opponents. This division may come down to the wire with the important games being saved for last.
Three players to watch: Takkarist McKinley, defensive end
Like I said earlier, probably one of the best defensive players in the drafted dropped to the 26th pick for the Falcons. He's powerful, speedy, has a nose for the football, and looks to be a great defensive linemen for the future of this defense. I'll be anxious to see how much they use him in year one. It's more of a long-term play for the Falcons, but McKinley should be a special talent in this league.
Dontari Poe, nose tackle
While the Falcons stayed fairly quiet in free agency, Dontari Poe was both literally and figuratively their biggest signing. At 6'3" and nearly 350lbs, Poe is a guy no offensive player wants to see opposite them. He's a double-teaming candidate for the offensive line, which opens up pass-rushing lanes for guys like Vic Beasley and Brooks Reed.
Austin Hooper, tight end
A rookie last year, Hooper had minimal contribution to the offense. With the Falcons parting ways with Jacob Tamme in the offseason, Hooper is set to be the starting tight end of the Falcons. He ended last season with 19 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He also posted a catch percentage of over 70 percent. His efficiency should lead to more targets and more trust from Matt Ryan, and he could become another key weapon for this already loaded offense. His target share will be something to keep an eye on, as the Falcons aren't historically a team that targets the tight end a lot (since Tony Gonzalez left).
I think the Falcons are a lock to make the playoffs, even if they are playing in (arguably) the toughest division in the league. I think their defense has a lot to show, and if their offense is even comparable to last year's, this team could be special.
I have the Falcons projected for a 12-4 record, but ultimately falling short of the Super Bowl. In my projections, I have them losing to the Packers in a rematch of the NFC championship game from last year.
How do you think the Falcons will do this year? Let us know in the comments below!
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