2015 Record: 8-8-0
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
New Faces for 2016 - WR Mohamed Sanu, QB Matt Schaub, OL Alex Mack, LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Sean Weatherspoon
OFFENSE: Matt Ryan is back for his ninth NFL season after passing for 4,591 yards along with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions a year ago. Matt Schaub is back for a second tour of duty with the Falcons and will battle Sean Renfree for the back up role.
Running back Devonta Freeman had a decent season, going for 1,056 yards with eleven touchdowns while averaging four yards per carry. In addition, Freeman had 73 receptions for 578 yards with three touchdowns. Tevin Coleman (392 yards, 4.5 ypc average, one TD) and Terron Ward (95 yards, 3.3 ypc, one TD) will spell Freeman.
The wide receivers have Julio Jones, who made 136 catches for 1,871 yards with eight touchdowns last season, leading the way. Mohamed Sanu (33, 394) comes over from Cincinnati to play the other spot to fill the void of Roddy White, who was not re-signed in the off-season. The tight end is Jacob Tamme, who had 59 receptions for 657 yards and one score.
DEFENSE: Derrick Shelby and Grady Jarrett are the tackles while Adrian Clayborn (three QB sacks) and Vic Beasley (four sacks) man the ends up front.
The linebackers are Courtney Upshaw and Philip Wheeler on the outside with Brooks Reed manning the middle. Rookies Deion Jones (LSU) and De'Vondre Campbell (Minnesota) along with Tyler Starr and Sean Weatherspoon will also be ready to play.
The secondary features corner men Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford (two interceptions) while rookie Keanu Neal (Florida) and Ricardo Allen (three picks) look to be the starting safeties.
OUTLOOK: After a .500 finish last season (following a 5-0 start to the season), the Falcons know they need to improve if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
Head Coach Dan Quinn will be looking for more consistency from the offense, which averaged 21.2 points per game. Quarterback Matt Ryan needs a bounce back season after only 21 TD passes last year. Julio Jones is a one-man wrecking crew but he needs help as well in a depleted wide receiving corps.
The defense MUST get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks after a league worst 19 sacks last season. In addition, the secondary made just 15 interceptions while the defense finished right in the middle of the pack, allowing 348 yards per game.
The NFC South has Carolina as the team to beat this year, but the division has been pretty diverse the last decade or so as far as first place goes.
If the defense can muster a pass rush to go along with an improved secondary and a more robust running game, perhaps the Falcons can soar to a playoff appearance this year after going 3-8 down the stretch in the 2015 season.
It would take a lot to go just right for the Falcons to break their playoff drought this season, but that's why they play the games.
Fearless forecast - 6-10 this year
2016 TEAM SCHEDULE
Week 1 - vs. Tampa Bay
Week 2 - at Oakland
Week 3 - at New Orleans
Week 4 - vs. Carolina
Week 5 - at Denver
Week 6 - at Seattle
Week 7 - vs. San Diego
Week 8 - vs. Green Bay
Week 9 - at Tampa Bay
Week 10 - at Philadelphia
Week 11 - BYE
Week 12 - vs. Arizona
Week 13 - vs. Kansas City
Week 14 - at Los Angeles
Week 15 - vs. San Francisco
Week 16 - at Carolina
Week 17 - vs. New Orleans