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NFL: Atlanta Falcons season preview

There's a new starting quarterback in Atlanta for the first time in a generation as the Falcons move on from the Matt Ryan era with Marcus Mariota.

Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason after the Falcons' attempt to win the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes left him feeling like a change was needed.

With few offensive playmakers to operate with and talented rookie Desmond Ridder waiting in the wings, it will be a tough job for Mariota to keep the Falcons competitive in the NFC South.


NFL Season 2022/23


All across the USA with three games scheduled for London, one for Munich and one in Mexico City.


8th September 2022 - 12th February 2023

How to watch:

The vast majority of games are live and on-demand with NFL Game Pass, while selected games are available via Sky Sports and Sports Live Streaming

Odds:BUF Bills +600, TB Buccaneers +700, KC Chiefs +1000, LA Rams +1000, GB Packers +1200

Where did the Atlanta Falcons finish last season?

3rd NFC South (7-10)

What are the Atlanta Falcons' hopes for the season?

Expectations are at an all-time low in The Big Peach as the Falcons are at the foundation level of a huge rebuild.

No one realistically thinks Arthur Smith can break a four-year playoff drought with this group.

Last season, the Falcons' defense ranked 29th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed, while the loss of Ryan plus the 12-month suspension handed down to Calvin Ridley make things very difficult.

So 2022 will be about discovering what they have at quarterback and assessing if any other underwhelming veterans need to be axed next spring. 

It will be a huge achievement just to emulate last season's 7-10 campaign, but they get an extra two home games this year as one of last year's was played in London.

The top two spots in the NFC South will probably be taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints with Atlanta a +220 shot to pip the Carolina Panthers to third or -150 to finish bottom of the pile.

Who are the Atlanta Falcons' opening opponents?

The Falcons go straight into a clash with a division rival when the New Orleans Saints travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday September 11th.

The series was split one apiece last year as the Falcons survived a fourth-quarter fightback to win 27-25 at Ceasars Superdome in November before the Saints got their revenge with a 30-20 Week 18 win in Atlanta.

The two teams have met each other 106 times (including 1 postseason game), with the Falcons earning 54 wins and the Saints on top in the other 52.

The visitors are favoured in the odds for this one with the Saints -230 on the Money Line and the Falcons +190 to get off to a winning start.

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When are the Atlanta Falcons' key fixtures?

The Falcons face the Carolina Panthers twice in the space of eleven days and these games are likely to determine which of the two finishes bottom of the division.

Smith's men host the Panthers on Sunday October 30th before traveling to Charlotte for a prime-time Thursday night matchup with Matt Rhule's men at the start of Week 10.

If things have turned sour by then, fans may start to root for the team to lose in order to secure the highest-possible draft position, which could make the closing few weeks a bitter experience.

After a Week 14 bye, Atlanta face away games against the Saints and the Baltimore Ravens before closing out their schedule with home clashes against the Arizona Cardinals and Bucs.

Who is the Atlanta Falcons' head coach?

Arthur Smith comes from a successful family - his father being FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith and his sister Molly carving out a career as a Hollywood movie producer.

The former Tennessee Titans position coach took over as offensive coordinator there in 2019 and in his first year in that role he oversaw the highest-scoring Titans team in 16 years.

He was named the 18th head coach in the franchise's history in January 2021 and posted a 7-10 debut-season record, winning seven of nine games that were decided by one possession.

Which players have the Atlanta Falcons signed?

QB Marcus Mariota, CB Casey Hayward and LB Nick Kwiatkoski (Las Vegas Raiders)
RT Germain Ifedi, RB Damien Williams and WR Damiere Byrd (Chicago Bears)
TE Anthony Firkser and LB Rashaan Evans (Tennessee Titans)
WR KhaDarel Hodge and S Dean Marlowe (Detroit Lions)
CB Mike Ford (Denver Broncos)
P Bradley Pinion (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Which players have left the Atlanta Falcons?

QB Matt Ryan (Indianapolis Colts)
LB Foyesade Oluokun (Jacksonville Jaguars)
WR Russell Gage (Buccaneers)
TE Hayden Hurst (Cincinnati Bengals)

Who are the Atlanta Falcons' key players?

Offensive MVP:

Cordarrelle Patterson

Defensive MVP:

A.J Terrell

Top Rookie:

Drake London

Breakout star:

Kyle Pitts

Cordarrelle Patterson emerged as one of the new hybrid running back/wide receivers that are crucial to offensive coordinators' plans and he should receive plenty of touches in space again this season.

Likewise, cornerback A.J. Terrell rose above the flames of the group around him to earn second-team All-NFL honours in 2021 and NFL's Next Gen Stats later pronounced him the best cover corner in the league.

Kyle Pitts enjoyed a great rookie campaign but possesses so much potential that he could progress to become one of the elite tight ends in the league during his sophomore year.

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