The clock struck midnight on the Falcons' magical season about 20 minutes too early during the Super Bowl, and now it's time to pick up the pieces and regroup. Atlanta fortfied their defense with a couple of upgrades in free agency and the draft, and the hope is that a team that's more balanced talentwise can get back to the playoffs and do this season what last year's squad could not.
However, while the talent may be improved in Atlanta this year, they'll have to deal with the loss of key coaching personnel, including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Can they overcome those departures and put together another big year? Let's break it down.
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|Projected wins||In playoffs||Win division||Conference||Super Bowl|
SportsLine projects the Falcons will have trouble matching their 11-5 record from last year, but there could be potential value in them returning to the Super Bowl and even winning it this time around. Any odds longer than 6/1 to win the NFC represents value for the defending conference champs.
|Win total||Playoffs||Division||Conference||Super Bowl|
|9.5 (U -120)||-130||+140||5/1||12/1|
All odds via Westgate.
The win total is just about exactly where SportsLine projects the Falcons, making it largely a stayaway, though the juice being on the Under could make an Over bet a slight value play. With the NFC South looking like it'll be a battle between four solid teams, even taking the Falcons to win the division presents a nice potential payoff if they don't lose a step in 2017.
Pete Prisco defends his 12-4 prediction:
The Falcons will be a better football team in 2017 than they were a year ago for a couple of reasons.
1. Corner Desmond Trufant, their best cover player, is back healthy after missing seven games and the postseason last year. He will be a big help to the coverage units.
2. The young defensive players will be much more advanced in scheme knowledge, which mean the defense will be better. They started four rookies in the Super Bowl last year. That experience will help. They won't be thinking as much, so they will play faster.
3. The offense will be among the best again. Even with Kyle Shanahan gone, the Matt Ryan-led offense will again be a point machine. New coordinator Steve Sarkisian is a bright mind who will get along with Ryan better than Shanahan did.