The Atlanta Falcons are seeking their first winning record since 2017.
That year, the team went 10-6 and lost in the Divisional round to the Philadelphia Eagles.
That’s a decline in performance, considering that they were in Super Bowl LI the previous season.
Everyone invested in the NFL knows how tragic that game went for the franchise.
Their record got worse with each passing year until they won just four games in 2020.
ONE. WEEK. AWAY. pic.twitter.com/V2KborxzDI
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 5, 2021
They still have former league MVP Matt Ryan who is throwing at least 4,000 yards per season.
But at age 36, his championship window is shrinking with each passing year.
To which they drafted tight end Kyle Pitts to bolster their offense.
He and Calvin Ridley can stretch the field and catch touchdown passes from Ryan.
— Matt Ryan (@M_Ryan02) September 5, 2021
However, defense became their Achilles heel last season, and they hope to reverse that trend after taking five defensive players in the 2021 draft.
Amidst the upgrades, it’s better to temper expectations for the Falcons this coming season.
Will they have a shot at entering the playoffs?
Or will they continue their streak of losing records?
Reviewing The NFC South
The Falcons might be going through a gauntlet within their division.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain title favorites by bringing back the players that helped them win Super Bowl LV.
The New Orleans Saints will be undergoing a period of transition with Jameis Winston as their starting quarterback.
But their roster remains competitive on both sides of the ball.
They might struggle during their first six games with Michael Thomas out due to injury.
NFC South Fans Before the Season 😂
Who's winning the division? pic.twitter.com/hXbH1c1nSz
— Cameron Magruder (@ScooterMagruder) August 31, 2021
As always, head coach Sean Payton has tricks up his sleeve to address this concern.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers are still an enigma with Sam Darnold as their primary play-caller.
He did show some promise during the preseason but against weaker competition.
On paper, the Falcons seem to be at a disadvantage against their division rivals.
However, it’s hard to count out the budding on-field chemistry between Ryan and Pitts.
— NFL (@NFL) August 30, 2021
Despite the improvements, it’s hard to see the Falcons winning over the Buccaneers.
The same story goes against the Saints because Thomas is back during their first encounter.
Atlanta might get a split or a sweep against Carolina.
Therefore, they may get only one or two wins from the NFC South.
Easier Schedule Outside Their Division
The Falcons’ success or failure during the 2021 NFL season hinges on one question.
Can their defense hold their ground?
They gave up 25.9 points and 398.4 yards (fourth-worst) per game last season.
Vast improvements on that end can make their remaining games easier.
Atlanta ranks 30th in schedule strength coming into this year, with their opponents having a combined winning percentage of 45 percent in 2020.
Aside from the Buccaneers and the Saints, the other 2020 postseason teams they will be facing are the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Football Team.
SEVEN. DAYS. AWAY. pic.twitter.com/hS8vLbHcor
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) September 5, 2021
The Falcons might have a shot against Washington because they will be playing at home, but that’s no stroll in the park.
Chalk up another loss for Atlanta because they will be at Buffalo in January, where unfavorable weather conditions might prevail.
The Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys will be challenging assignments because of roster improvements and returning players.
Completing their schedule are the New York Jets, Eagles, and Detroit Lions.
— NFL (@NFL) September 1, 2021
Factoring in their opponents, the Falcons will be winning six games at most in 2021.
It will be a slight improvement from their 4-12 mark last year.
But sadly, they still have to do more work before returning to relevance in the NFC.