For the seventh year in a row I wrote my full, personal predictions for the NFL season on my blog. Atlanta (over Pittsburgh) ended up being my Super Bowl choice, and the Falcons were actually the last team I finished writing about yesterday afternoon just hours before kickoff.
Yes, I think Atlanta avenges the Philadelphia loss tonight with Nick Foles under center for the Eagles. Yes, I realize something could happen tonight that throws off my whole story here, but I’m fine with that.
I made sure to include that second sentence knowing that any team's season can change in the blink of an eye. Watching the game last night, it was tough to see Atlanta continue to fail in the red zone (2017's biggest issue offensively), for multiple defenders to suffer injuries (Keanu Neal is out for the year with a torn ACL), and for the Falcons to lose another game they should have won. An injury to Matt Ryan or Julio Jones is about the only thing missing from the Falcons suffering the doomsday scenario on opening night.
I saw a comment in Audibles today that wanted an explanation for why people are high on Atlanta. I think hanging on the road with the champs again explains a lot of it, but not finishing again is also a fair retort. I picked the Falcons because I thought they had the potential to finish top 10 in offense and defense this year with the talent they have. I thought the coaching, particularly with Steve Sarkisian, would be stronger this year. I thought Julio Jones might see positive touchdown regression while Ryan shouldn't suffer a ridiculous number of tipped interceptions like in 2017. I liked the fact that this team has been close the last two years, because those teams usually are the ones that eventually push through. That's always been much more common than coming out of a playoff drought to win it all like Philadelphia last year.
There are still 15 games for the Falcons to right the ship, but after that first chapter, I have doubts that my Atlanta prediction will be anything but pure fiction.