Team Capsules: Atlanta Falcons

August 15, 2023

A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season

© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody has to win the NFC South, a statement that includes the Falcons. Atlanta finished last season with a 7-10 record, putting the Falcons just a game back of the division-winning Buccaneers.

In other words, they figure to be in the mix this season. That might be hard to believe, given that they’re led by second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, who still has a lot to prove. But that’s the reality in what is arguably the NFL’s worst division.

The Buccaneers no longer have Tom Brady. The Panthers are turning to a rookie QB. And the Saints are, well, the Saints.

The Falcons might not be very good this year. But oddly enough, they might not have to be.

What to like about the Falcons…

  • Atlanta can flat-out run the football. Last season, they finished third in the NFL in total rushing, behind only Chicago and Baltimore. Those two teams have their stats inflated by running quarterbacks, however. The Falcons do it the old-fashioned way. They hand the ball off and get out of the way. This year, they figure to be even better on the ground, with rookie Bijan Robinson becoming the featured back. The University of Texas star was the eighth-overall pick in the draft; he’ll get a ton of touches in 2023.
  • Kyle Pitts has a chance to become one of the best tight ends in the NFL. During his rookie season, he hauled in 68 passes for 1,026 yards. It was a splashy debut. Last year, however, Pitts was limited by injuries. He played in just 10 games, catching just 28 passes for 356 yards. There’s no reason that one of the most-talented players at his position can’t bounce back to his rookie form. If he does, he’ll be a dynamic player in Atlanta’s offense.
  • The schedule is a friendly one. In their division alone, Atlanta has six winnable games. Getting to play Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay makes for a soft schedule. Throw in games against Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis and Washington makes things even easier. Heading into the season, that’s 10 games that could easily go the Falcons way.

What not to like about the Falcons…

  • Desmond Ridder has only four starts under his belt. While the third-round pick played well in those games, he still has a long way to go. It was encouraging that he posted a 2-2 record as a rookie, but he only threw for 708 totals yards and two touchdowns. That kind of production isn’t going to cut it over the course of a 17-game season.
  • Atlanta’s defense wasn’t very good in 2022, finishing 27th overall in the NFL. Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, Kaden Elliss and David Onyemata were big offseason acquisitions, but the free-agent additions can only do so much. The Falcons will have to be much better on this side of the ball to compensate for an offense that will definitely struggle at times with a second-year quarterback at the helm.
  • The only thing the Falcons did well last year was run the football, yet that’s where they decided to invest a top-10 draft pick. With all its other needs, Atlanta improved upon its only area of strength. That seems like an odd choice. So did their decision to not to pursue Lamar Jackson during the offseason; giving up two first-round draft picks for a franchise quarterback seems like a gamble they should’ve taken.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Bijan Robinson to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (+250)

The eighth-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is the favorite to win the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The three players behind him are all quarterbacks, who figure to struggle in Carolina, Houston and Indianapolis. Robinson shouldn’t have any such issues. Running backs can step right in and play well out of the gate. And in a run-happy offense, Robinson will get a ton of attempts. He’ll rack up the yards and could cruise to the award.