Falcons stud receiver Julio Jones was targeted over 200 times during 16 games last season
By Pick Sixty Sports
Atlanta looked like a smashing success in Dan Quinn’s first five games of 2015, going 5-0 straight-up and averaging 32 points. The fact that four of those wins came vs. NFC East foes, whose division winner would eventually get into the postseason with a 9-7 record, is pure hindsight at this point. But for the Falcons to improve in 2016 they’ll have to do so against a much tougher schedule.
LAST YEAR’S RECORD & 2016 NFL FUTURES
Win-Loss: 8-8 SU and 6-10 ATS
Over/Under: 2-13-1 O/U
Noteworthy: As of this writing, the gap between Carolina (-220) and the Falcons is the NFL’s largest between the top two teams favored to win a division.
The Falcons offense is littered with Pro Bowl caliber talent but could only convert 54.7% of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns (18th). Mohamed Sanu is the new No. 2 WR and in their second year with O-Co Kyle Shanahan, it’s fair to expect bigger things from Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman.
The team’s defensive rating peaked at 17th by the midpoint of last season, but tailed off to finish at 21st overall. In terms of talent, the Falcons did little to address pressing concerns during the draft but made a few moves in free agency to shore up the front seven. We should see improvement there when in fact, there is nowhere to go but up. The club finished last in QB sacks last season with 19.
The Falcons will play three non-divisional Sunday games this year vs. foes that have a Thursday game on-deck (Week’s 5, 13 and 14). One school of thought might suggest the opponent here will be ‘saving up’ for the short week, thus giving an advantage to the Falcons. The truth, however, is that most NFL game planners seem to view this an opportunity to lay it all on the line. Since the late 80’s, teams with a big divisional Thursday game on-deck are 60-44-1 SU and 56-46-3 ATS.
Coaches get how tough the short prep week is on players and no matter what happens Sunday, they’re going to be at a considerable disadvantage four days later. Thankfully, they’ll only be in this position once each season so why not be rolling into the short week with a ‘W’ in your back pocket?
FALCONS BOTTOM LINE: RAM JAM
One trend to keep in mind for the Falcons is in Week 14, when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. LA is ghosting as a small home fave for this matchup and the Rams have Seattle on-deck. Conference road dogs (Atlanta) in this spot have played 7 overs and 14 unders the past five years so if the total looks right, consider booking this game to stay “Under” the number.
For what it’s worth, the Falcons have a 6-9 O/U record their past 15 road games in the Pacific time zone, including a 2-6 O/U record for sub-.500 teams.