By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
There may not be a more maddening franchise in all of professional sports than the Atlanta Falcons.
When the team is expected to be a contender, they falter.
When the team is expected to win a game at home against a weaker opponent, they lose by double digits.
When you bet on the Falcons to win at home by 3, they’ll win by 2.
When they are heavy road underdogs to a contender in the NFC, they win the game outright.
When they have awesome throwback uniforms they can simply make permanent, they unveil these.
It goes on and on for the Atlanta Falcons, but continually there is not another team in all of professional sports that has more personalities than Sybil than the Falcons do.
Atlanta once again is at a familiar crossroads with their organization. Dan Quinn has gone from being a few quarters away from winning a Super Bowl, all the way to a 1-7 start a season ago before the Falcons inexplicably rallied to end the year with a 7-9 record.
What’s in store for 2020? As is always the case with the Falcons, it’s anybody’s guess.
Falcons 2019 Season Review
It wouldn’t be an Atlanta Falcons season without preseason expectations the team would never live up to, and that’s precisely what awaited Dan Quinn’s group in 2019.
For some reason, a lot of people felt like the Falcons would bounce back and make some noise in the NFC South. After starting the season 1-7, those expectations were quickly evaporated.
However, for some odd reason, something changed leading up to a Week 9 contest against their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints would come off their bye week with the mirror opposite record as the Falcons, standing at 7-1, winners of six-straight games in all.
Atlanta would go into the Superdome and dominate the Saints, defeating them by the score of 26-9. After the Falcons would defeat Carolina on the road the following weekend, Atlanta would drop their next two games against the Bucs and Saints leaving them at 3-9 on the season, and with Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff beginning to feel their respective seats hitting hot temperatures.
Thanks to a strong 4-0 finish to the season, including a road win against the eventual NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta would crawl back to 7-9 in 2019 and end up saving the jobs of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff.
The 4-0 finish would also place the Falcons in a very familiar position going into the 2020 NFL Season as they were as they headed into the 2019 season.
It left them with hope that they would possibly ascend back to contender status in the NFC South.
And that’s why so many Falcons fans would tell you, they are terrified for the 2020 season.
Jumped at the Opportunity to Suffer Heartbreak as a Member of the Atlanta Falcons
LB/DE Dante Fowler Jr. (Rams)
RB Todd Gurley (Rams)
TE Hayden Hurst (Trade/Ravens)
CB Darqueze Dennard (Bengals)
LB Charles Harris (Falcons)
LB Deone Bucannon (Giants)
WR Laquon Treadwell (Vikings)
Got Away From Atlanta Quicker Than a 28-3 Lead
TE Austin Hooper (Browns)
DE Adrian Clayborn (Browns)
LB De’Vondre Campbell (Cardinals)
CB Desmond Trufant (Lions)
LB Vic Beasley (Titans)
RT Ty Sambrailo (Titans)
RB Devonta Freeman (Free Agent)
Falcons 2020 Offensive Preview
The Falcons enter 2020 with largely the same group of offensive talent as before, only with changes at the running back and tight end positions.
Atlanta said goodbye to Devonta Freeman during the offseason, in large part because Freeman could not stay on the field due to consistent injury issues, so it made sense for Atlanta to go out and sign Todd Gurley to a new contract — especially considering he has *checks notes* … an arthritic knee.
The Falcons are hoping the risk pays off and they are rewarded with the Todd Gurley from 2018, who wound up winning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award while being in contention for the NFL MVP award for most of the season, and not the Gurley from 2019 that showed major signs of slowing down despite scoring 14 touchdowns for the Rams.
At tight end, Atlanta lost Austin Hooper to free agency after Cleveland came calling with a Brinks truck that would make him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history for a few minutes. The team may have found a gem though by trading for former Ravens first-rounder Hayden Hurst. Hurst comes to Atlanta after a log jam of talent for the Ravens left him without much opportunity. That won’t be the case when he comes to the A-T-L however, and Ryan should immediately integrate him into the Falcons passing attack.
The grizzled veterans of the Falcons offensive unit of Matt Ryan, Alex Mack, and Julio Jones are all back in 2020, with young rising wideout Calvin Ridley, Justin Gage, and free-agent signee Laquon Treadwell rounding out the Falcons wide receiving corps.
Atlanta’s offensive line continues to have the aforementioned Mack anchoring the middle, with Jake Matthews protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside. Veteran guard James Carpenter will slot in between Matthews and Mack on the left side of the line, while the right side will feature both of the Falcons first-round picks from a season ago with Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
Dirk Koetter will call the plays once again for the Falcons, so it’s anyone’s guess if this unit will come out on fire again in 2020, or once again be as efficient moving around as someone who stubs their toe in the dark. As is usually the case with this Falcons team, on paper, they appear to have everything you need to have an effective offense. They just happen to also be the Falcons.
Falcons 2020 Defensive Preview
The Falcons offense wasn’t the only unit that got a little TLC in the offseason from Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff, as Dan Quinn will have a new pass rusher at his deployment with the addition of free-agent rush end Dante Fowler, formerly of the Rams.
Fowler joins a Falcons defensive line that is the lifeblood of their defense, with All Pro Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett leading the way, along with 2017 1st round pick Takk McKinley.
2020 2nd round draft choice Marlon Davidson is another name to pay attention to on this line, as he has big-time talent but fell a bit in the draft. Atlanta may very well have another steal in waiting there.
The linebacking corps for Dan Quinn’s defense is predicated on the play on their star inside linebacker Deion Jones. Jones headlines a unit that also features 2018 6th round pick Foyesade Oluokun, along with free-agent additions Charles Harris and Deone Bucannon.
For the Falcons to get back into the thick of the NFC South race and contend for a playoff spot, they will need better play from the secondary, which ranked in the bottom third of the league a season ago and surrendered a passer rating just under 97 per game.
The team released their best corner, Desmond Trufant, in the offseason and used their first-round pick in 2020 to replace him when they selected Clemson’s, A.J. Terrell.
Terrell figures to start from day one as the team’s top corner, with 2018 2nd round pick Isaiah Oliver projected to start opposite him at right cornerback. Strong safety Keanu Neal once again highlights the secondary, but the star safety has only played in four games over the last two seasons and will be getting back into action following a torn Achilles suffered a season ago. The Falcons secondary is a completely different group when Neal is in the lineup, however, so his health is paramount to any success the Falcons defense may have.
Falcons 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers share residency as the two teams in football that will drive you absolutely mad during the season with how consistently inconsistent they are on a weekly basis.
As we enter yet another season with hopes the Falcons can put it all together and rattle off double-digit wins en route to a run in the playoffs, it’s good to remind ourselves that this is the Atlanta Falcons that we are talking about and they would find a way to go 8-8 with the 2008 New England Patriots roster.
With that being said, for the Falcons to get past the 8-8 marker they will need Todd Gurley to recapture his form from the 2018 season and they will need their defense to stay healthy, as too many key defensive playmakers have missed a lot of time in recent seasons, derailing any hopes Atlanta may have.
Considering the difficulty of the NFC South now, we think the Falcons are likely heading towards the same type of record as a year ago, only this time they won’t start 1-7 on their way to getting there.
Falcons 2020 Projection: 8-8, 3rd place NFC South
Falcons 2020 Betting Preview
We try to avoid betting on the Falcons at all costs. If you’re the type of bettor that also enjoys bringing yourself three hours of extra agony a week, the Falcons are just for you!
Here are our “favorite” bets involving those Dirty Birds.
- Atlanta Falcons to finish 3rd in NFC South — (-130) at DraftKings Sportsbook
As of this writing the Falcons projected win total from oddsmakers is 7.5. That’s a little too close for comfort when it comes to this team, as no one is more capable of winning a meaningless Week 17 game to go 8-8 than the Falcons. We will take a little safer approach and assume two NFC South statements to be true: 1) Carolina is going to be really, really bad and will have 4th place sewn up, 2) New Orleans and Tampa Bay will do battle all year for the NFC South crown. That leaves Atlanta to finish comfortably in third, and for this slightly juiced up price of -130 to look like a very good bet.
- Julio Jones UNDER 7 Receiving TD’s — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
It feels odd saying to fade one of the best receivers in football on a touchdown prop, but we are suggesting you consider that very thing this year. Julio Jones has only topped seven touchdowns two times in his last seven seasons, this despite his yardage continually being amongst the best in football. For some reason, Julio just doesn’t score a great deal of touchdowns and we can see Todd Gurley pluck away some scores from Jones. We’re playing the historical odds here and taking Julio Jones to go under the seven touchdown number.
- A.J. Terrell to win Defensive Rookie of the Year — (+3300) at DraftKings Sportsbook
While it’s more likely to see this award go to a pass rusher or linebacker, Terrell has pretty good value at 33-to-1 as a player that’s going to start at left cornerback the moment Atlanta opens their season up against the Seahawks on Sept. 13. If Terrell can play well, he figures to get a little extra attention considering he will get four meetings with Drew Brees and Tom Brady this season, in addition to dates against Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes. This is really just a dart throw on a cornerback with good value that’s sure to be tested with great frequency in 2020.