We are officially halfway through the regular season, which is both exciting and saddening. On one hand, you have the playoffs around the corner, for those lucky teams who have made it that far. Then on the other hand teams who aren’t competing for the playoffs can turn their head towards the NFL Draft and off-season to reload and try again.
After the Atlanta Falcons Week Eight bye, the team currently sits at 3-4 and tied for last in the division with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still, despite an injury-riddled start to the season the Falcons might not be all the way out of it just yet.
Projecting the Second Half of the 2018 Atlanta Falcons Season
First off, the good with this team. Despite the team struggling greatly on defense, the offense has been firing on all cylinders.
What has been overlooked this season is just how well Matt Ryan has been playing.
Matt Ryan, last five games: 143-192 (74.5%), 1812 yards (9.4 y/a), 13 TD, 0 INT, 126.0 passer rating
Matt Ryan, best five-game stretch of MVP season in 2016: 111-154 (72.1%), 1428 yards (9.3 spa), 12 TD, 1 INT, 124.1 passer rating
As shown in the graphic above, Ryan is nearly mimicking his 2016 MVP season. Going into the Falcons bye, Ryan was leading the league in passing yards, fifth in passing touchdowns, and fourth in quarterback rating. On top of that, Ryan’s lowest completion percentage, outside of Week One, is 68.5 percent. Currently, he has a 71.1 completion percentage on the year. He also has only two interceptions on the year, with those two coming in the first two games of the season.
While Ryan and the offense have been performing exceptionally well, the defense has had its struggles. It’s safe to point to injuries as to why the team is underperforming. Over the team’s last five games the defense had allowed an average of 34 points per game.
The team has been riddled with injuries ever since Week One of the season, and every week someone else seems to go down. But perhaps the biggest losses to the defense are Deion Jones and Keanu Neal.
The Falcons also have young players across the board. Currently, rookie linebacker Foyesade Oluokun has really stepped up in an attempt to take over Jones’ role in the defense. Of course, he hasn’t been given full command like Jones but he has had his ups and downs, which is expected for such a young player. The team also has Damontae Kazee playing a full-time role at safety for the team. While Kazee hasn’t been bad over the years, he has struggled greatly at times this season in his improved role.
The team still has nine games left to play this season. That means if the Falcons can come out with a winning record (5-4) in those games then they have a chance at the playoffs potentially. This may seem like a tall task for a team that has struggled so far this season, but they could pull it off. With how dominant Ryan and the offense has been so far they may be able to pull out some games down the stretch.
The team may also have some relief as their star linebacker Jones is scheduled to return to the lineup Week 11 versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, that means the Falcons would finish the season 7-9 and would struggle to make it into the postseason. Still, the team could hit a stride to end the season and pull out some more wins than what has been projected above, putting them right back in the playoff conversation. If the team can get some of their starters back from injury than that certainly looks plausible.
Finishing the season 9-7 or 8-8 could be just enough to earn them a wild card spot and make the playoffs for the third season in a row.