9-7 (11-5 ATS), 2nd Place NFC South in 2009
The Atlanta Falcons surprisingly became a playoff team in 2008 after having some of the worst odds on the board to win the Super Bowl. They proved that two years ago was no fluke by finishing 9-7 last year, but a few crucial losses kept the team from making the second season. The team is back once again to try to get back to the Promised Land and to do some serious damage if and when it gets there.
2010 Draft: It may have been a bit of a reach, but the Falcons took LB Sean Weatherspoon with their first round draft pick this year. The man out of Missouri is expected to bring some real speed to a linebacking corps that has been badly lacking such type of talent for years. The next three picks were all used on big men, as HC Mike Smith was insistent that the team become more physical, particularly in the trenches.
Offensive Outlook: When the Falcons drafted QB Matt Ryan two years ago, they probably expected there to be some growing pains. After a solid rookie campaign in which he led the team to the playoffs, Ryan came back with a much better statistical season in Year 2. He only started 14 of the 16 games, and in that time, he threw for just under 3,000 yards and 22 TDs against 14 picks. There is still some work to do, but he can clearly improve an offense that ranked just 16th in league a year ago with 340.4 yards per game. Look for RB Michael Turner to rebound after a lousy second season in Atlanta. If not, RB Jason Snelling (613 yards, 4 TDs) should see a ton of carries again.
Defensive Outlook: Atlanta's season might have effectively been over in the last few weeks of the year, but the defense was really quite dominant in that time, allowing a total of just 20 points to the Bucs, Bills, and Jets. Smith hopes that this could be a springboard to bigger and better things in 2010. The secondary was shored up in the offseason with the free agent signing of former Houston Texans DB Dunta Robinson. Even though DB Brent Grimes only started nine games, he led the club with picks with six on the year in '09. No one else had more than three INTs for the season. Weatherspoon will add another dimension to a core of linebackers that were great stat eaters, but not fantastic ball players.
2010 Betting Outlook: In spite of the fact that that year wasn't fantastic for the Falcons, they were still clearly one of the more underrated teams in the game by the oddsmakers, as their 11-5 ATS mark was amongst the best in football. Because it didn't make the playoffs, Atlanta might be in that sort of a situation once again this year. Smith can clearly coach his guys up, and just the right formula of offense and defense could lead to a slew of covers.
All Odds for 2010 NFL betting season can be found at Diamond Sportsbook. Atlanta Falcons Predictions: 11-5, 2nd Place in NFC South 2010 Atlanta Falcons Schedule
Atlanta Falcons Odds To Win NFC South: +120
Atlanta Falcons Odds To Win NFC: +550
Atlanta Falcons Odds To Win Super Bowl XLV: +1200
Atlanta Falcons Regular Season Win Total: 9.5 over -165
We are keying in on the road schedule for the Falcons this year, as this is incredibly manageable. Road trips to Pittsburgh (without Ben Roethlisberger) and Philadelphia (without Donovan McNabb) don't seem nearly as daunting anymore, and a three game roadie to start December against Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Seattle should net at bare minimum one, but more likely at least two more wins. If the team can hold serve at home, the Falcons should be heading back to the playoffs in 2010, particularly in the relatively weak NFC.
Week 1 - Away @ Steelers
Week 2 - Home vs. Cardinals
Week 3 - Away @ Saints
Week 4 - Home vs. 49ers
Week 5 - Away @ Browns
Week 6 - Away @ Eagles
Week 7 - Home vs. Bengals
Week 8 - Bye
Week 9 - Home vs. Buccaneers
Week 10 - Home vs. Ravens
Week 11 - Away @ Rams
Week 12 - Home vs. Packers
Week 13 - Away @ Buccaneers
Week 14 - Away @ Panthers
Week 15 - Away @ Seahawks
Week 16 - Home vs. Saints
Week 17 - Home vs. Panthers
Atlanta Falcons Predictions: 11-5, 2nd Place in NFC South
2010 Atlanta Falcons Schedule