A Look Ahead at the 2017 Atlanta Falcons NFL Season
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to play their home games at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and for them, the new season needs to be more of the same
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to play their home games at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017 (provided it is finished on time) but for Matt Ryan and Co. the new season needs to be more of the same. They don’t even need to be better than they were in 2016; they just have to be more. Running out of gas three quarters and change into the Super Bowl was a anticlimactic way to end one of the most successful seasons in franchise history, but that’s what sets apart great teams from merely good teams – the drive to win the big one. Fortunately, the Falcons proved they have the potential to be great.
The Iceman Cometh Back
Starting quarterback Matt Ryan set the bar pretty high for himself in 2016 (career-highs in completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, yards per game, passing touchdowns, and passer rating, and a career-low in interceptions). Good news is the regular season MVP will once again have at his disposal his favorite target, wide receiverJulio Jones. How good can this two be when they are on the same page? In Week 4 of the 2016 season, they became the first quarterback/receiver tandem to gain 500-plus passing yards and 300-plus receiving yards in a single regular season game. Other key returnees include running back Devonta Freeman (13 TDs and 1079 rushing yards), edge rusher Vic Beasly (15½ sacks) and linebacker Deion Jones (three interceptions).
The Falcons have been projected to win 9.5 games next season, and given their schedule it is conceivable that they could overachieve and maybe match – if not top – their 11-5 record of 2016. Atlanta’s season-opener against the Chicago Bears has the makings of the confidence-booster that the Falcons need coming off their Super Bowl collapse. The following week’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers may not be a repeat of their NFC Championship game, at least scoreboard-wise, but the Falcons have shown they can neutralize the Packers on both ends of the gridiron. The Falcons went 6-2 on the road last season and they could very well get their first road win-streak of 2017 against the Lions in Week 3 — provided of course they take the Chicago game.
With a bye sandwiched between home games with the Bills and Dolphins, it would not be unreasonable to expect the Falcons to be 5-0 by the time their first big challenge of the season rolls along; a visit to Gillette Stadium to face their nemesis, the New England Patriots. Atlanta will be out for revenge, but the Pats can do to Falcons what the Falcons did to the Packers, so that’s likely to be the first blemish on their record. The question is, could it be the only?
Visits to the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers – whom Atlanta beat twice last season – could theoretically speaking improve Atlanta’s record to 7-1 by the time they host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10. Dallas is still going through some growing pains and the Falcons could take advantage of that. Up to this point most teams should have crumbled under Atlanta’s sheer firepower and things should remain that way until the Falcons meet the Minnesota Vikings and their ironclad defense in week 13. But even then Minnesota’s offense is to flimsy to prevail over Atlanta.
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The final stretch includes two games with the New Orleans Saints in three weeks and a rematch with the Panthers. All things considered, the Falcons should at least make the playoffs again, possibly while retaining their NFC South title.