Don’t let the Atlanta Falcons’ last two seasons fool you. Sure, they finished 7-9 in 2018 and 2019. And yet, you can’t help but believe in the Falcons, who still own one of the league’s best air raids with quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, among other skilled players.
In 2020, their already hot offense will boil over as they did in Weeks 14 through 17 in 2019.
Their defense should improve from its spotty performance in 2019, with pass rush specialist Dante Fowler Jr. joining the pass rush. If Fowler plays like he did in 2019, the Falcons will improve their sack numbers.
And the team still contains a horde of players from their 2016 Super Bowl run and a few incoming players with prior Super Bowl experience.
Here are five reasons to wager the over at NFL betting sites on the Atlanta Falcons.
1. Finishing Strong
On December 7th, 2019, the Falcons were 3-9. They made headlines in the previous offseason depicting a disgruntled Julio Jones over the summer of 2019. And by December, the organization appeared ready for a reboot.
Surely, the team was waiting for the end of the season to fire head coach Dan Quinn and start over.
Then, Matt Ryan led the team to 4 straight wins, with the Falcons averaging 30.2 points per game on offense and allowing just 19 points per game.
For a defense that allowed almost 25 points per game overall, the team had an epic turnaround.
Ryan returns with a deadly receiving duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. They lost Austin Hooper to the Cleveland Browns but replaced him with Hayden Hurst, a former first-round pick they landed in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.
Add in an emerging possession target in Russell Gage.
Gage had 49 receptions in his second season – which was respectable considering his status as a sixth-round draft pick and playing under two of the league’s best receivers, and you have a solid group in Atlanta.
The running game was a major issue, and it forced Ryan to throw 616 times to make up for its ineffectiveness. That may change with Todd Gurley returning home to Georgia after starting his career with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.
Only 26 years old, injuries took a toll on Gurley, whose career may already decline because of chronic knee issues.
Flipping over to the defense, the signing of Dante Fowler Jr. is a huge break for the Falcons, who ranked 29th in sacks in 2019 with just 28. While the defense is still a work in progress, they could become dangerous once more with Fowler chasing quarterbacks.
2. Matty Ice and the Hotlanta Offense
As outlined in the above section, the Falcons owned one of the best offenses in football in 2019, which finished fifth in total offense and third in passing offense. Sure, their 30th-ranked run offense could use a spark, which explains Gurley’s signing.
At worst, Gurley is still a premier short-yardage back, evidenced with his 12 touchdowns in 2019 despite a massive decline in yards per carry. If he is no longer a featured back, you can still expect him to move the chains in short-yardage situations.
He only logged 31 receptions in his last season with the Rams, but when healthy, he will give you between 50 and 60 catches a season. Gurley’s presence will also allow the Falcons to build on their 42% third-down conversion rate, which ranked 10th in the league.
While the Falcons averaged a respectable 23.8 points per game, Gurley’s expertise in short-yardage situations can even help the Falcons improve on their 13th-ranked scoring offense.
We know how dangerous Ryan and the Falcons passing offense is, especially if the stagnant line is in sync.
But with Gurley in the fold, assuming he remains healthy, look for the Falcons to maintain a greater time of possession and keep the ball out of the opposing offense’s hands.
Gurley’s presence will help Julio Jones continue to dominate as he heads into his 10th season and into the latter portion of his prime.
For an offense that ranked fifth in 2019, adding another piece to an already dangerous puzzle will allow the Falcons to hang with their high-flying rivals in the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and perhaps the Carolina Panthers.
3. Pass Rush Hour, Atlanta Edition
The Falcons didn’t do themselves any favors on defense in 2019. Overall, they allowed an average of 24.9 points per game, ranked 17th in interceptions, and as mentioned, 29th in sacks. They also ranked 25th in turnover differential.
This is something the Falcons will need here in 2020 playing in the NFC South with Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Teddy Bridgewater all known for being pocket passers. Each possesses Pro Bowl-caliber talent and dangerous pass-catchers to go along with them.
And the way to best beat a pocket passer is to bring relentless pressure to force them to throw before they’re ready, which leads to mistakes. Enter Dante Fowler Jr., who had an excellent year in Los Angeles with the Rams, ranking second on the team with 11.5 sacks.
Fowler’s presence will help the pass defense, given the Falcons mediocre 12 interceptions in 2019 coupled with the loss of corner Desmond Trufant, who led the team with 4 interceptions.
With new face A.J. Terrell in the defensive backfield to fill the big shoes Trufant left behind, having Fowler chasing quarterbacks will help both his development and the whole defensive back unit, much of whom struggled in 2019.
You can expect the Falcons defense to play more like they did over the final four games of 2019, despite facing Brees, Brady, and a reemerging Bridgewater six times in 2020.
The Falcons face a gauntlet of quarterback talent outside the division, which includes Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Patrick Mahomes. That’s 11 games total where the Falcons face Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks.
4. Favorable Front Nine
The Falcons could start the season on a high note with an opening game against the declining Seattle Seahawks. While Russell Wilson’s presence always makes the Seahawks a contender, the team is weak on defense, and they face roster uncertainty in many position units.
The Dallas Cowboys have new coaching staff, the Chicago Bears have a weak offense, we don’t know what to expect from the Green Bay Packers, the Panthers are rebuilding, and the Detroit Lions continue to decline.
Don’t expect the team to start the season 9-0 here, but you can expect 5-4 or even 6-3 from this favorable schedule, which also includes an away game at the Minnesota Vikings and a home stand against the Denver Broncos.
Given the greater talent surrounding the Falcons and their explosiveness during the final four games in 2019, they could end up on the outside looking in to their over/under projection and even a potential playoff spot.
5. Super Experience
From the 2016 team that played in Super Bowl LI, seven players are still with the team. Six of which you can project as starters.
Add Todd Gurley and Dante Fowler to the mix, and you have 9 players with 8 projected starters.
Not bad for a football team who finished 7-9 a season ago but are looking to return to prominence after seven lean seasons, but following one of those lean seasons full of hope.
While the team boasts seven players from that Super Bowl run, it’s foolish to forget the number of coaches who were with the team during Super Bowl LI. It’s seven coaches total.
It will take a while to get used to saying that.
While it’s easy to count the Falcons out because of their mediocrity over the past two seasons, their firepower and improved pass rush will allow this team to resemble who they were in December of 2019.
The passing attack and offense is deadlier in 2020 than any season before with Todd Gurley’s arrival. Even if we see the same Gurley from 2019, he will move the sticks, allowing him to find a niche in the game.
You can’t guarantee an over and the Falcons aren’t the safest bet, but this team is a realistic bet to make at the online sportsbooks to overcome the 7.5 over/under threshold.
Do you like the Falcons’ chances to clinch the over in 2020? Let us know in the comments.