Mike Fanelli | May 21st, 2020
The 2019 NFL season was one of two halves for the Atlanta Falcons. After starting the season 1-7, many thought the Falcons were heading towards a top-five pick in the 2020 draft. However, after their week nine bye, the Falcons turned it around, going 6-2 over their last eight games and finished second in the NFC South with a 7-9 record. The second half turnaround saved head coach Dan Quinn’s job. No one believed the team could turn their season around last year, so here are my five bold predictions for the Falcons in 2020.
Make sure to check out all of our other team bold predictions here.
The Falcons finish third in the NFC South but make the playoffs
Now that Tom Brady plays in Tampa Bay, the NFC South is arguably the strongest division in the NFL. The Saints are viewed by many as the best team in the division, while the Buccaneers are right there with them after adding Brady and Rob Gronkowski. However, don’t count out the Falcons. Last year they went 4-2 in the division, splitting games with the Saints and Buccaneers while sweeping the Panthers. I expect a similar divisional record this year. With several easy winnable games outside of the division and two likely wins against the Panthers, the Falcons should get to 10 wins this season. With the new third wild card spot, the Falcons can finish third in the division and still make the playoffs.
Matt Ryan leads the league in passing yards
Ryan has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in nine straight seasons. Part of that is playing most of his games in a dome but he also has one of the best wide receiver duos in the league and a defense that gives up plenty of points. Last year, Ryan finished fifth in the league with 4,466 passing yards. However, the four quarterbacks who finished ahead of Ryan all played in one more game. Over a full 16 game pace, Ryan would of finished third in the league, only behind Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston. With Dak potentially holding out to start the year and Winston now a backup, Ryan has a real shot to lead the league in passing yards.
Todd Gurley fails to reach 1,000 rushing yards
We all know that Gurley’s decline is due to his knee. Even the Falcons admitted as much as their deal with Gurley isn’t officially done because they haven’t been able to do a physical on him. Coming off arguably the worst year of his career, Gurley was released by the Rams before they had to guarantee him a bunch of money. Last year, Gurley had a career-low 857 rushing yards and 1,064 scrimmage yards. While part of his struggles was the Rams’ offensive line, will the offensive line play be much better in Atlanta?
The right side of the Falcons’ offensive line has two second-year players who struggled with injuries last year. Meanwhile, Jake Matthews and Alex Mack are the only two above average starters on the offensive line. Combine the bad knee, questionable offensive line, and likely very little offseason organized activity, Gurley won’t top 1,000 rushing yards for the season year in a row.
Calvin Ridley goes over 1,200 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns
During his first two years in the league, Ridley averaged 944 receiving yards per season over a 16 game slate. However, that’s with Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu on the team. Even if you believe in Hayden Hurst, he won’t put up the same stat line nor see the same number of targets Hooper did last year. With the losses in the passing game, combined with a struggling run game, and an awful defense, Ridley should easily see a career-high in targets this season.
Ridley had 92 as a rookie and 93 last year while missing three games after suffering an abdominal injury in week 14. He would have had 115 targets over a full 16 game slate last year and I fully expect him to see over 130 targets this year. If you adjust his stats from last year to give him 130 targets, Ridley would finish the year with 88 receptions for 1,205 yards and 10 touchdowns over a 16 game slate. With Hooper and Sanu gone, expect Ridley to have a breakout year.
The Falcons give up the most passing yards in the league
Last season the Falcons gave up the 11th most passing yards in the league but the defense lost several starters this offseason. Desmond Trufant signed with the Lions and was replaced with rookie A.J. Terrell. De’Vondre Campbell signed with the Cardinals and will be replaced by either Charles Harris or Foyesade Oluokun. The cornerback position is young and inexperienced as the Falcons are projected to start Terrell and Isaiah Oliver. Furthermore, the depth in the secondary is thin and the Falcons have suffered several injuries to that unit over the past few years. In a division with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and three very good wide receiver duos, the Falcons’ concerns in the secondary means they give up plenty of passing yards this season.
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