Don't Bet On The Falcons Making The Playoffs
Matt Ryan and company will square off against some stiff competition
Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season pretty much summed up the campaign for the Atlanta Falcons. In a last-second loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta’s season began with an eerie vibe that carried throughout the entire year.
Despite battling to get to 4-4 by the midway point, the New Orleans Saints were too much in the NFC South, and a string of five-straight losses during the second half of the season ensured the Falcons would miss the playoffs for the second time in Dan Quinn’s tenure as head coach.
The Falcons boast +130 odds (DraftKings) to make the playoffs in 2019, the second-best chances of any NFC South team; however, their road to the postseason could be tricky being in the same division as the Saints, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as a strong NFC.
Here’s a deeper look into why the Falcons will miss the playoffs on back-to-back occasions under Quinn, including a look at the team’s current roster and schedule.
The Falcons’ offense has been a key talking point for several years now when considering the weapons at the disposal of Matt Ryan. With one of the league’s top receiving corps, which features Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu, there’s no question that the Falcons are capable of scoring points.
Atlanta, who averaged over 389.1 yards per game in 2018 and 25.9 points per contest, were among the top 10 offenses in the NFL in both categories. With the addition of Kenjon Barner at running back, the Falcons will have another to use in their explosive offense.
Barner, who has bounced around the league, offers a secondary option in the run game behind Devonta Freeman. The loss of Tevin Coleman this offseason to the San Francisco 49ers is a bit of a loss for the Falcons though, so Barner and a host of the other running backs will need to step up in Coleman’s place.
Coleman, who was coming off his best season with the Falcons in 2018, will be severely missed in this offense. A player that could provide a spark in both the run and pass game, Coleman scored nine total touchdowns last season, while amassing over 1,000 combined yards.
The new 49ers running back leaves a great void in the Falcons’ rushing attack behind Freeman, who is more of a north/south runner. Coleman’s game-breaking speed and ability to change directions will most likely be a huge loss.
Meanwhile, linebacker Brooks Reed and kicker Matt Bryant are both longer with the team, and in the case of Bryant, the Falcons let go one of the league’s most-accurate kickers. In 2018, Bryant nailed 95.2 percent of his kicks, with his long make coming from 57 yards.
According to strength of schedule, the Falcons have the seventh-toughest schedule in 2019, so there road to the playoffs certainly won’t be an easy one. With one of the most-difficult stretches of games in the league over the first eight weeks, it’s entirely possible that Ryan and the Falcons will be out of the mix by the time their bye week rolls around in Week 9.
In those first eight weeks, the Falcons will face five playoff teams from a season ago: the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks.
Of those matchups, it’s hard seeing the Falcons win more than three of them, meaning 2-3 during that stretch would need the team to be 3-0 against the Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals to have a decent shot over the second half of the season.
Hypothetically, 5-3 would give the Falcons a cushion as they head into the bulk of their NFC South schedule. The Falcons come back from their bye on the road against the Saints, which marks the first of five straight games against divisional opponents.
Last season, the Falcons went 4-2 in the division, with the Panthers and Bucs falling to Atlanta twice. Neither the Panthers, nor the Bucs are significantly improved, so a record of 5-1 or 4-2 in the division is entirely possible.
Mixed into their schedule during the stretch run are games with the San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars, who both have experienced quarterbacks at the helm. The addition of Nick Foles for the Jags likely won’t make them a Super Bowl threat, but they’ll probably be significantly more competitive than last season.
It’s a toss up for the Falcons based on their schedule. If they can find a way to rack off a winning record ahead of their bye week, they’ll certainly have a shot at the postseason. However, the Saints are still clear favorites in the NFC South, leaving the Falcons to rely on a wildcard bid.
Conversely, it seems much more realistic that the Falcons are 0-3 after three games, and that puts an immense amount of pressure on Ryan, who had his second-best season as a professional in 2018 and still saw Atlanta fall short of the playoffs.
Talent only gets a team so far, and in the case of the Falcons, it’s probably too tall a task for them to get into the NFC playoffs with the teams they’ll be competing against. The Saints, Eagles and Rams are heavy favorites to win their divisions, while the Vikings, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers could all be in the NFC North divisional race.
That potentially leaves two spots open in the wildcard race, where the Dallas Cowboys, Seahawks, 49ers and Panthers should be battling for a place in the six-team NFC playoff field.
The biggest hurdle for Atlanta comes on one side of the ball: their 28th-ranked total defense from a season ago. While finishing in the bottom five of that category doesn’t necessarily take a team out of the postseason mix, it certainly doesn’t help (unless you’re the Kansas City Chiefs).
With the Falcons facing a number of experienced quarterbacks and top-tier offenses in 2019, it’s hard imagining Atlanta overcoming their challenging schedule and finding a way back into the postseason. Despite the Falcons boasting +130 playoff odds, the NFC is shaping up to be very deep, and Atlanta will simply be one of the casualties due to its difficulty.
Note: All statistics above were found on Football-Reference.com. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way.