Wounds Still Fresh for Falcons but Hopes are High in the Dirty South

A quarter away from being crowned champions of Super Bowl 51, the Atlanta Falcons got as close as they possibly could to beating the Patriots but the mysterious powers of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick proved to be too much for a team that had only just learned how to fly.

The positive take-away, though, is that the Falcons are indeed flying after an 11-5 season that saw their leader Matt Ryan win the league’s regular-season MVP award for his integral part in an offense that was one of the best the NFL had ever seen and that scored nearly 34 points per game. With almost every offensive starter returning for the 2017 campaign, expect Ryan to have another stellar season at the helm of the league’s most lethal attack even without Kyle Shanahan calling in the plays.

Shanahan’s move to San Francisco was heavily scrutinized by the football community but Atlanta’s acquisition of Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian was a lateral move at worst. That said, he and Ryan may take a few games to get on the same page so don’t be surprised if the Falcons are a little sluggish out of the gate.

On the other side of the football, the Falcons will see the return of top NFL cover corner Desmond Trufant after the former first-round pick was lost in Week 9 when he sustained a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season. He and other key additions made to the Falcons defensive unit should make the Dirty Birds a much more difficult team to score on than they were a season ago.

A lot went right for the Falcons in Dan Quinn’s second year in charge. Can the success they saw in 2016 be repeated? Here’s what oddsmakers have to say:

Super Bowl +1200

I realize the wounds are still fresh for Falcons fans but the fact that they’re fielding another Super Bowl-contending team should help the healing process. Making it back to the Big Dance won’t be easy but Atlanta is more than talented enough to make it happen and Matty Ice has now shed his reputation as a choker.

Since coming back to the NFL after a short hiatus, head coach Quinn has done nothing but get to the final game of the season as he’s now been a part of three of the last four NFC title-winning teams. Those other two SB appearances came when he orchestrated the defense for the Seattle Seahawks, something he’ll be more involved in this year for the Falcons.

Quinn is trying to replicate the “Legion of Boom” in Atlanta and if the defense is even just a little better than it was last year, the Falcons are going to be a scary team to face all season.

+1200 isn’t the best price out there but it’s comparable to lines for teams I expect the Falcons to compete with for one of the two playoff byes in the NFC.

NFC South +170

In my opinion, this is one of the hardest divisions in football to handicap. Tampa could be great, New Orleans still has Drew Brees and Carolina could win anywhere from four to 14 games. This feels like a season where the Sportsbook of the NFC South finishes with a record near .500 but I may be overthinking it.

Talent-wise, the Falcons are the best team of the four and the division banner should be theirs to lose a year after going 5-1 SU against the Saints, Bucs and Panthers.

While there won’t be a huge pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow, Atlanta is the safest play here. If you’re looking for a bigger payday, reach for the Bucs at +350 — they’re much better than their price implies.

Win Total – 9.5 (OVER -125)

Nothing really scary about the Falcons’ 2017 schedule apart from their Super Bowl rematch with the Pats in Week 7 but as always, this is a sharp win total. That said, Ryan has quarterbacked Atlanta to 10 or more wins in five of his nine seasons as a pro and this year’s club is arguably the best he’s had the pleasure of calling the signals for.

Anything worse than a 10-6 season for the Falcons will be a disappointment — don’t be afraid of the OVER.

Dan Quinn to win Coach of the Year +2000

While he wasn’t given the credit he deserved, Quinn was a key cog in last year’s run to the Super Bowl. His team has a massive mental hurdle to clear only months removed from that infamous blown lead and if they successfully negotiate their way back to the playoffs, it will be in large part because of the leadership provided by the head coach. +2000 is a bargain.

2017 Atlanta Falcons Futures Odds
Market Odds
Super Bowl +1200
NFC Championship +600
NFC South +175
Win Total 9.5

Odds as of August 24 at Sportsbook