Yahoo Sports activities is previewing all 32 groups as we prepare for the NFL season, counting down the groups one per weekday in reverse order of our preliminary 2018 energy rankings. No. 1 will likely be revealed on Aug. 1, the day earlier than the Corridor of Fame Sport kicks off the preseason.
We’ve spent all offseason celebrating the Philadelphia Eagles, and forgot how shut they got here to shedding their first playoff sport final season.
It was proper there for the Atlanta Falcons. They led at halftime. Within the remaining two minutes that they had first-and-goal on the 9-yard line. The fourth-down play from the 2-yard line was a foul play name that supplied quarterback Matt Ryan just one lifelike possibility as he rolled proper in search of wideout Julio Jones, and it nonetheless ought to have ended up as a game-winning landing. The ball went by means of Jones’ palms.
There have been instances final season once we misplaced observe of how good the Falcons had been. They had been 10-6 with some bizarre losses. Had Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate’s landing within the remaining seconds towards the Falcons not been overturned as a result of he was inches brief, Atlanta wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
Let’s blame the Tremendous Bowl hangover for the malaise as a result of the roster continues to be loaded.
The Falcons won’t repeat their unimaginable 2016 season, although they nonetheless have the expertise to win the NFC. And the Tremendous Bowl goes to be performed of their residence stadium this season.
[Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues are open: Sign up now for free]
Ryan’s MVP season is an outlier, however he’s good. The Falcons nonetheless have two explosive working backs, a future Corridor-of-Fame receiver in Jones (assuming he performs … his contract standoff is troubling) and added first-round decide Calvin Ridley to the receiving corps. The protection wasn’t nice final season however there’s younger expertise all over the place on that facet of the ball. In the event you’re inspecting roster depth, the Falcons are among the many prime few groups within the NFL. Many of the workforce that led the New England Patriots 28-Three within the Tremendous Bowl (sorry, Falcons followers) continues to be round.
Because the Falcons’ expertise degree doesn’t match up with their 2017 report, it’s value inspecting what went fallacious. It’s scary that the Falcons truly had super harm luck; in response to Soccer Outsiders’ adjusted video games misplaced metric, the Falcons had the second-best harm scenario within the NFL final season. And so they had been nonetheless underwhelming.
A lot of the blame fell on offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. He had an unimaginable act to comply with, after Kyle Shanahan was masterful in 2016. The Falcons’ offense was nonetheless good — fourth in yards per move play, seventh in yards per run play — however Sarkisian bought blamed for something that went fallacious. Earlier than the 2016 season, Shanahan bought comparable criticism. It took Ryan a 12 months to regulate to Shanahan, and maybe that can occur with Sarkisian too.
The protection took a step again. Vic Beasley went from 15.5 sacks to 5. Large performs vanished. The Falcons had simply 16 takeaways, and solely 4 groups had fewer. The Falcons had a plus-11 turnover margin two seasons in the past, and minus-two final 12 months. That makes an enormous distinction.
The playoffs reminded us how good the Falcons may be. They upset the Los Angeles Rams, dominating a workforce that was nice within the common season. Had Jones caught that fourth-down move at Philadelphia, we’d be having a a lot totally different dialogue in regards to the Falcons (and the Eagles).
You’ll be able to discuss your self into the Falcons having an enormous rebound, despite the fact that their 2017 wasn’t dangerous. The roster is loaded with expertise. Ryan and Sarkisian must be higher of their second season collectively. If the Falcons’ skinny defensive deal with scenario (it will get scary after Grady Jarrett) doesn’t transform an issue, the protection must be a lot better.
Final season the Minnesota Vikings had been a sport away from being the primary workforce to play a Tremendous Bowl at residence. The Falcons have the flexibility to make it occur this season.
It’s not just like the Falcons have a lot salary-cap wiggle room, due largely to Matt Ryan’s large contract. He signed a five-year, $150 million extension in Could.
The Falcons needed to save for that and didn’t add a significant affect participant. Guard Brandon Fusco bought $12.75 million over three years, and no one else bought greater than $2 million whole.
The losses of defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn, and receiver Taylor Gabriel will sting. Poe may very well be an enormous loss if the Falcons can’t discover defensive deal with depth. The draft was good, led by the worth decide of Calvin Ridley on the finish of the primary spherical.
Identical to 2016, the protection performed higher within the second half of the season. From Week 12 on, the Falcons didn’t surrender greater than 23 factors in any sport. Over Atlanta’s final three video games, together with playoffs, the Falcons gave up 10, 13 and 15 factors to the Panthers, Rams and Eagles. The Eagles piled up loads of yards and factors towards the Vikings and Patriots after the Falcons held them to 15 factors and 281 yards. Even Atlanta’s turnover issues began to show, because the Falcons compelled seven turnovers of their final three video games. If the protection can carry that over to this season, the Falcons will likely be a Tremendous Bowl contender.
The clearest reply is Julio Jones’ contract squabble, and now that the Falcons have reportedly drawn a line and instructed him they won’t rework his deal earlier than the season, I’m unsure the way it seems. For the needs of this preview I’m guessing he performs all 16 video games, however everyone knows the affect it will have on the Falcons if he doesn’t. With that scenario unimaginable to foretell proper now, I’ll flip to the offensive coordinator. Matt Ryan and Steve Sarkisian might click on of their second 12 months collectively, particularly contemplating Sarkisian was making an enormous transition from faculty to the NFL final 12 months. It’s additionally doable Sarkisian received’t flip that nook. He wasn’t very inventive, most notably with Julio Jones. Jones had simply three touchdowns final season. Jones must be an even bigger issue, particularly within the pink zone. The Falcons’ red-zone failures had been a largest cause the workforce dropped from 540 factors in 2016 to 353 final season. Atlanta nonetheless had loads of huge performs, third-down success and whole yards. However possibly Sarkisian can’t unlock the subsequent degree.
A few of Matt Ryan’s drop in manufacturing final season may be defined by easy regression. He threw touchdowns on 7.1 % of his passes in 2016, despite the fact that his profession price earlier than that was 4.5 %. It swung the opposite manner in 2017 and he posted a 3.eight landing proportion. We have to assume Ryan won’t ever once more play like he did two seasons in the past, however his customary degree is okay. He has posted a passer ranking of not less than 89 in every of the previous eight seasons. He throws just a few too many interceptions, however he makes up for it. He has seven straight 4,000-yard seasons. Ryan may by no means be the No. 1 quarterback within the NFL once more, however he’s most likely a top-10 quarterback.
Vic Beasley had an amazing 2016, then didn’t replicate that in 2017. He moved round from defensive finish to outdoors linebacker. He had some nagging accidents. He’ll be at defensive finish full time this season. Beasley was requested to play linebacker out of necessity and he was nice with that, even when it didn’t intensify his strengths.
“I wasn’t dashing as a lot as I usually would,” Beasley mentioned, in response to the Atlanta Journal-Structure. “There have been much less alternatives, but it surely was for the betterment of the workforce and what the workforce wanted most at that second. I used to be nice with that.”
Sack totals aren’t every little thing, however the Falcons want Beasley to create huge performs if the protection goes to succeed in its potential.
One stat that gives a straightforward snapshot for effectivity is yards per play on offense minus yards allowed per play on protection. The Falcons completed final season at a internet constructive of 0.6 yards per play (5.eight yards gained per play, 5.2 allowed). The one different groups to succeed in plus-0.6 final season had been the Jaguars, Chargers (there’s a cause they haven’t proven up on this countdown but), Saints and Vikings. The Patriots had been at plus-0.Three and the Eagles had been at plus-0.4. There are a thousand stats you possibly can mine to guage how good a workforce is, and yard-per-play differential says the Falcons had been among the many greatest groups within the NFL final season.
From Yahoo’s Liz Loza: “Devonta Freeman has by no means been the largest or quickest again within the league, however his imaginative and prescient and persistence have greater than compensated for any bodily shortcomings. Whereas he didn’t submit top-eight FF numbers in 2017 – a regression from his earlier two outings – he nonetheless managed low-end RB1 numbers and 13 aim line carries (#Three amongst RBs). Averaging 4.Four YPC on the season, the 26-year-old remained environment friendly, managing 4.eight YPC towards base fronts. Incomes Four extra carries per sport than Tevin Coleman, Freeman will proceed because the workforce’s RB1. He’s at present my RB12, although that will clearly change had been he to re-tweak his knee.”
[Booms/Busts: Fantasy outlook on the Falcons.]
[Yahoo Fantasy Football leagues are open: Sign up now for free]
HOW WILL THE FALCONS KEEP ALL OF THEIR PLAYMAKERS HAPPY?
It’s not the worst downside to have, however the Falcons have a whole lot of mouths to feed on offense. They have already got two starting-caliber working backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They’ve Julio Jones, who’s at all times within the argument because the NFL’s greatest receiver. Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper most likely didn’t get sufficient targets final season. And now first-round decide Calvin Ridley joins them.
Ridley was thought of by many the perfect receiver on this draft class. The Falcons couldn’t move him when he fell to No. 26. The Falcons are going to be exhausting to defend with all of that expertise. We all know Jones will get seems (once more, assuming he performs). He had 148 targets final season. Freeman has averaged just a little greater than 14 carries a sport the previous two seasons, and Coleman bought 10.Four final season. The Falcons received’t let Ridley sit the bench after utilizing a first-round decide on him. The employees should work out tips on how to unfold the wealth.
That is the primary workforce on the countdown I can realistically envision successful a Tremendous Bowl. There are various causes — each statistical and the outdated eye take a look at — to consider within the Falcons. If Steve Sarkisian is best this season, notably within the pink zone, Atlanta can once more be one of many prime scoring groups within the league. We now have seen the protection play at a excessive degree, although not but for a full season. This roster is loaded and if the Falcons aren’t one of many NFL’s greatest groups we will most likely blame it on the teaching employees.
You’re going to listen to this so much by means of these previews: The most important downside the Falcons face is the NFC is as deep as ever. If Atlanta can’t beat the Panthers or Saints in what may be the hardest division within the NFL, they’ll be competing with another excellent groups for less than two wild-card spots. On the finish of the season, we’ll word that some excellent NFC groups bought omitted of the playoffs. If the Falcons have some accidents and the protection nonetheless lags in the midst of the league, the Falcons may very well be a kind of groups.
I just like the Falcons, however just like the Saints a bit extra. It additionally wouldn’t be a shock if the Falcons are a juggernaut once more, like they had been in 2016. The expertise on the roster is unmistakable. I’ll most likely be selecting the Saints to win the division and the Falcons to get a wild-card spot, however we noticed final season that Atlanta may be very harmful from that spot.
32. Cleveland Browns
31. Indianapolis Colts
30. New York Jets
29. Arizona Cardinals
28. Buffalo Payments
27. Cincinnati Bengals
26. Chicago Bears
25. New York Giants
24. Miami Dolphins
23. Washington Redskins
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21. Houston Texans
20. Seattle Seahawks
19. Oakland Raiders
18. Denver Broncos
17. San Francisco 49ers
16. Detroit Lions
15. Tennessee Titans
14. Baltimore Ravens
13. Carolina Panthers
12. Dallas Cowboys
11. Kansas Metropolis Chiefs
– – – – – – –