The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2018 regular season on Sept. 6. Up next in our preseason rankings are the tough-to-read but dangerous Atlanta Falcons.
2017 in a nutshell: Super. Bowl. Hangover.
What’s different: They’re no longer hungover, and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian now has a year under his belt.
Why they could be awesome: When they were last themselves in 2016, the Falcons had an historically powerful offensive and a strong young defense. The offensive personnel is just as good now, and the defense has continued to evolve.
Why they could suck: It’s possible the offense just isn’t right with Sarkisian (the results weren’t good in 2017), and that 2016 was an aberration for a team that hasn’t had much playoff success during the Matt Ryan era.
Major additions: First-round rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, guard Brandon Fusco.
Major losses: Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and veteran defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn.
Breakout watch: With Poe and Clayborn gone, they’ll look for 2017 first-rounder Takkarist McKinley to step it up. Injuries have interfered with his career so far, but he recorded five of his six sacks in the last nine regular-season games of his rookie campaign. Then he added two more in the playoffs.
Position to watch: Lots of questions at wide receiver. Top weapon Julio Jones has to make more plays, especially in the red zone, and it’s still tough to tell what role Ridley will play. Mohamed Sanu is clearly the No. 2, but Ridley might be fighting for the No. 3 job with Justin Hardy, Reggie Davis, and Russell Gage.
Prediction: I wish they’d done more this preseason, but I still think they’re in for a bounce-back year. The offense remains jacked and the defense is ready to become an elite unit with McKinley, Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and Desmond Trufant leading the way in 2018.
12-4, 2nd place in the NFC South