2. Atlanta Falcons
2022 Record: 7-10
2023 Projected Win Total: 8.5
Key Additions: Jessie Bates III, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, Taylor Heinicke, and Bijan Robinson
Key Losses: Marcus Mariota, Casey Hayward, and Isaiah Oliver
The Atlanta Falcons had a weird season last year, winning seven games despite having a questionable roster on paper, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A big reason why they overperformed expectations is because of their rushing attack, which was extremely productive due to their offensive line and rookie running back Tyler Allegier.
Although their rushing attack was really good last year, it should be even better next season due to the additions of rookies Bijan Robinson and Matthew Bergeron. Now they have two extremely talented running backs behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. With the moves they made in the draft, they have a chance to have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.
While their run game will likely be incredible, their passing attack is more questionable. They lost Marcus Mariota to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, but they have made it clear that Desmond Ridder, who they drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, is their guy for the time being.
Ridder hasn’t shown enough to be extremely confident he can be a high-level starter next season, but he is mobile and performed well under pressure in his limited playing time last season. This, along with the fact that the Falcons have an elite offensive line and two immensely talented pass catchers in Drake London and Kyle Pitts, means Ridder could overperform expectations and play quite well as the Falcons’ full-time starter.
Ridder’s development will determine just how high the ceiling is for the Falcon’s offense.
Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons brought in a ton of players during the offseason to improve their front seven, including Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss, and Bud Dupree. They also worked on their secondary, adding Jessie Bates III, Jeff Okudah, and Mike Hughes to replace Erik Harris, Casey Hayward, and Isaiah Oliver.
With these additions, their defense should take a big step forward, and there is a chance they have an average defense for the first time since around 2015.
The Atlanta Falcons are more prepared to be a winning team now than they were last season. Their rushing attack should be one of the best in the NFL, and their defense is way better on paper than it has been the last few years. Desmond Ridder likely won’t be good enough for the Falcons to be among the best teams in the NFC, but it’s hard to imagine the team being bad. If things go as expected, the Falcons should compete for the NFC South title with a decent shot at winning the division.