2016 was going to be their year. They were unstoppable, but they ran into the wrong team on the wrong night. 2017 has been a season of inconsistency and much head-scratching.
The offense has retained most of its personnel but has lost the explosive and dynamic form it had last season. The Falcons may have only lost one win from last season, going 10-6 this year, but they have scored a massive 187 points fewer than 2016, and rather than being a confident #2 seed they are a relieved #6 seed. However, there is reason to think they can not only repeat as NFC champions, but go one step further. Here is why the Atlanta Falcons can win Super Bowl LII.
When people think about the Atlanta Falcons offense they think of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan torching defenders, of Taylor Gabriel darting around the underneath coverage, or of Mohamed Sanu trick plays. However, what you should be focusing on is the running game. Anchored by Alex Mack at center and a mobile line around him, the Falcons rushing attack is as dangerous as any when it gets rolling.
Atlanta ranked eighth in yards per carry and 13th in yards per game behind the talents of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Both are adept at reading the zone scheme the Falcons block with, and are nightmares when cutting back with vigor. While Coleman is a little faster and shiftier, both have the power to break arm tackles and can be used in the passing game too, making it a tough read for defenses.
While the NFC playoffs have some very good defenses roaming around, the Falcons first game will be against the LA Rams, who were one of the worst run defenses in football this season. They ranked 22nd in DVOA, 28th in yards per game and 30th in yards per carry. They are, in short, soft against the Falcons hidden strength.
Speed kills, and the Falcons have speed on defense in abundance. Thomas Dimitroff has made getting more athletic on defense a priority over the last few years, and it is starting to really take affect.
Deion Jones doesn’t have the reputation of a Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, but he is playing like them. Flying to the football and tackling hard. When your middle linebacker has the speed of thought and movement that Jones does it makes your whole defense feel fast. When that is backed up by the likes of Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley, and Grady Jarrett you have a defense that can flow, tackle, and hit all day.
The Falcons season-long stats on defense aren’t overly pretty, but they have been improving all year and most importantly they are healthy. Unlike last year they have their star corner Desmond Trufant for the playoffs, and they still have the memories of Super Bowl LI to both haunt and motivate them. They might not have the reputation of the Vikings or Eagles defense, but this unit can be deadly in the right mood, and will be a good foil for the offense.
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