Here’s what I like about the 2017 Falcons – and, alas, what I don’t

You’ve seen this picture before. Here it is again. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I’m paid to have an opinion. Steely Dan’s (Walter Becker, R.I.P.) best song: “Doctor Wu.” Best Bond: Sean Connery, forever and ever. Best French fries: Still McDonald’s. See?

Regarding the 2017 Atlanta Falcons, I hold two opinions. This embarrasses me. I hate fence-straddling even more than I hate soggy fries. But I see a way this season will go very, very well, and I also see a way it could go … less well. I’ve tried to reconcile this, but no luck. I’m picking the Falcons to have a rather nice record and win the NFC South – that effort should be available in this space soon – because that’s how the majority of me is leaning. But it is, I confess, a majority of 51 percent.

But enough. Here’s what I like about this team – and what I don’t.

Like: Matt Ryan (duh). He’s good. He’s better than good. He’s coming off what was, by 10 miles, his best season.
Don’t like: Matt Ryan. He was 31 when he had that best-by-10-miles season. He’s 32 now, which isn’t old by quarterback standards, but still: When your breakout season comes in Year 9 of an NFL career, is a regression to the mean – not that Ryan’s mean is terrible – imminent?

Like: Vic Beasley Jr., the NFL’s leading sack man. He had 15 ½ sacks for a team that went whole seasons – slight exaggeration, but only slight – without getting 15 ½ sacks from its entire roster. He learned a new position and made the Pro Bowl. He’s 25. He should get better.

Don’t like: Vic Beasley Jr. as a bringer of constant pressure. As Bill Barnwell of ESPN has noted, those 15 ½ sacks came on 16 quarterback knockdowns. (Some sacks were strips, meaning he didn’t deck the passer.) That would seem the football equivalent of a .383 BABIP (batting average on balls in play.) The league average for BABIP is roughly .300. If you’re that far above the mean, you’re also a candidate for slippage. Note that Dansby Swanson’s BABIP was .383 in 38 big-league games last season.

Like: Desmond Trufant. He’s back. He might be the NFL’s best coverage cornerback.

Don’t like: Devonta Freeman, the NFL’s highest-paid running back. He’s good, but let’s face it – running backs in today’s football are kind of interchangeable. So are wideouts, unless you’re Julio Jones. Devonta Freeman is not Julio Jones. Two Septembers ago, he started the season as Tevin Coleman’s backup.

Like: Dan Quinn, fount of positivity. Were I an NFL player, I’d want to play for Quinn. He’s fun to be around. He’s adept with X’s and O’s. (He took over the Falcons’ defense late last season, to impressive results.) He’s almost everything you’d want in a head coach.

Don’t like: Dan Quinn, calming influence. Here’s where the “almost” comes in. Quinn’s first team fell apart after a 6-1 start, a slide he appeared powerless to arrest. The Falcons lost their final game of last season – a big game, if memory serves – because Quinn allowed his players and his offensive coordinator to get ahead of themselves. Aggression begat error which begat outright panic. He’s smart enough to learn from that, but what a lesson to have to absorb.

Like: The continuity of the Falcons’ roster. Most everybody who contributed to last season is back. This roster has been adjudged by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s best. On paper, this team should be better than last season’s.

Don’t like: The lack of continuity in the Falcons’ coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel could be an upgrade over Richard Smith, who was nothing special, but that can’t yet be known: Manuel hasn’t called a defense before. And there’s no way – none, zero, zilch – the offense will be as good under Steve Sarkisian. With the exception of a couple of calls in NRG Stadium on Feb. 5, Kyle Shanahan had a dream season. There’s no replacing him.

Like: Julio Jones running and leaping and catching. If you care to dub him the NFL’s best player at any position, I won’t argue.

Don’t like: Julio Jones getting injured. And it happens most every year. And he’s coming off foot surgery, his feet having been an issue since he was an undergrad in Tuscaloosa.

Like: The Falcons, defending NFC champs. They’ve proved they can play at the highest level. There should be no game too big for them.

Don’t like: The Falcons, Super Bowl losers. There’s much more pressure on them to prove the blown lead in Houston won’t Define Them than for the Patriots to repeat as champions. All Quinn’s happy talk can’t erase cold reality. When Texas A&M lost to UCLA after leading 44-10, your first though was, “Kind of like the Falcons.” When Georgia Tech lost a game it dominated to Tennessee, your first though was, “Kind of like the Falcons.” They’ve become a trope, a meme, an examplar of epic failure. That’s a lot to get past. Maybe too much.

Reader Comments 0


what Ralph answered I didnt know that anybody can get paid $6830 in 1 month on the 

computer . i was reading this>>>>>>>>>>>  


The SB collapse will haunt the Falcons when they make the big game again, but not during the regular season.  I see them going 13-3, squeaking out another NFC Championship, and then losing a less-close SB.  They will mimic the 92 Braves in this respect, last year being like the 91 Braves.


Falcons have a killer of a schedule. They could be a much better team and still go 8-8.


Your assessment of Matt Ryan is completely unfair..........he has been superb since his very first season. 

You are only looking at his Stats/Wins/Losses/Playoff Results while you completely ignore the absolute FACT that he played behind Offensive Lines ranked 28th, 30th or 31st AND has had the 27th, 29th, 30th or 31st ranked defensive squads in the league most of his 8 previous seasons!!!

Compare his QB Ratings, Stats, Wins & 4th quarter comeback success verses the Top 10 QBs of will change your tune. THEN ponder a little bit and consider the OL players, Defenses, Coaches & Special Teams the Top 10 QB's of All-Time were playing with during their most successful years and you will finally realize how great Matt Ryan has played since his very first season. Matt Ryan has been GROSSLY under-rated most of his career. Throw in his leadership skills, work-ethic and character/integrity traits and you might understand why I simply cannot understand how the NFL/Media continues to disrespect the man.

PLEASE do a little real research; I CHALLENGE every person reading this post to prove me Matt Ryan to the list All-Time great QB's & consider the talent surrounding each of these players.

{Perfect example: Tom Brady has benefited more from Bill Belicheck, OL players, Superb Defenses, Special Teams & "easy NFL schedules" than any player in the HISTORY of the NFL.}


Mark, just go away until basketball starts. You care nothing about pro or college football, and it shows in lackluster columns like this one.


Agree that the Falcons have some issues, but the key is that they should win the division. That puts them in the playoffs and it's onward and upward from there. Matt must have another good year and we have to avoid major injury to the elite players. Otherwise, we should be good to go.


How can the world proclaim Brady to be virtually eternal at 40 yet Ryan be ready for the old folks home at 32?  He is not young but he is not a RB and is showing no signs of age except birthday candles.

Julio is injury-prone but even at 80% he is better than most any CB in the NFL.  Throw in other targets like Freeman or Gabriel and teams cannot double-team Julio making him even more dangerous.

Finally, losing Shanahan is not a loss for the Falcons as it was less of his dominance over the offense in 2016 that ultimately propelled the Falcons higher.