- Win Over/Under: 9.5 (-120/+100)
- Make NFC Playoffs: -160 (62%)
- Win NFC South: +180 (39%)
- Win NFC Championship: +700 (13%)
- Win Super Bowl: +1400 (7%)
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 9.01 (11th)
The Falcons might be the least fun team to bet on in the NFL.
And that’s true across a variety of game types:
- Atlanta led 28-3 as a +3 underdog in Super Bowl LI: Then lost by 6 in overtime.
- Julio Jones was drafted ahead of Antonio Brown in many 2017 fantasy leagues: Jones finished the season with 1,444 yards … and only three touchdowns. Brown had 1,533 yards and nine scores.
- Matt Ryan was being drafted as top-five fantasy quarterback: And he wasn’t even start-able.
- Atlanta was a popular survivor pick twice in 2017: At home against Buffalo in Week 4 and Miami in Week 6. The Falcons lost both games.
- Atlanta was a -2.5 favorite against Nick Foles in the divisional round: And had a chance to go up three, but a red-zone pass on a questionable play-call bounced off Jones’ hands. (Pretty much the most Falcons thing ever.)
Most bettors like to wager on favorites and overs, but with the Falcons, it’s more like purchasing equity in struggle. Atlanta is 16-28 (.364) against the spread as a favorite since 2013, and the over is 47-63-2 (.427) since the Falcons drafted Jones in 2011.
But the one spot where the Falcons tend to have value is futures.
The over on their win total has gone 6-3-1 since they drafted Matt Ryan, and they’ve reached double-digit wins six times, too.
And in the five years Ryan has had an above-average defense in points allowed, he’s led the Falcons to 10.6 wins on average. (They also went to the Super Bowl with a defense that ranked 27th.)
This might be Ryan’s best defense yet.
The Falcons held all but one opponent under 27 points in 2017, quietly finishing eighth in points allowed and ninth in total yards allowed.
The defense is an athletic unit built to stop the pass, which fell perfectly into place as Atlanta allowed opposing passers to gain only 5.8 net yards per pass attempt last season, the 10th-best in the league.
The Falcons’ speed also helps them defend in the red zone, where they finished fifth with a 45.8% conversion rate allowed.
Former eighth-overall pick Vic Beasley is moving from linebacker back to defensive end, where he led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016.
Linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell both graded as top-25 linebackers according to Pro Football Focus, and the secondary is collectively rated fifth-best in the league heading into 2018. The offensive line is also ranked fifth.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are such a productive running back committee that fantasy owners don’t even freak out about their individual snap counts and touch rates anymore, which means the only thing holding them back is Julio Jones going months between touchdowns.
Jones’ three touchdowns were the fewest of all-time of any player to post a 1,400-yard receiving season. Over the last two seasons, only three of Jones’ 27 red-zone targets have gone for touchdowns.
Ryan says he doesn’t want to force it to Jones in the red zone. Ryan seems like the type of person to choose “wait” instead of “force quit” on an unresponsive program, then stare at the spinning color wheel for 22 hours.
It’s reached the point that after interviewing Jones on the subject, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure was essentially at a loss, ultimately concluding that “the secret weapon could be newcomer Logan Paulsen, a blocking tight end.”
If Jones scores double-digit touchdowns this season, The Action Network’s Chad Millman might buy him a car.
In all seriousness, the Falcons’ roster is comparable to the Saints’ — Michael Thomas was also somewhat touchdown-averse last season — but I think the Falcons actually have fewer holes on defense and more speed at linebacker.
Especially since their third-place finish got the Falcons out of playing the Vikings and Rams, I think Atlanta has a slight edge in the division race. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Over 9.5 Wins, Win NFC South
Atlanta Falcons’ 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 10
- Avg. Spread: -1.9
- Strength of Schedule: 9th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the Falcons: Week 4 vs. CIN, Week 6 vs. TB, Week 15 vs. ARI
- Use Falcons’ opponents: Week 5 @ PIT
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Pick: WR Julio Jones, RB Devonta Freeman
- Sleeper: WR Calvin Ridley
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“They are getting decent Super Bowl support. We had them out at 25-1 but moved to 16-1, and people are still betting that number. There’s also been some money on the over with Atlanta.”
– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Falcons To Make Playoffs As A Wild-Card Team? (+365)
Heading into 2018, the Saints are considered the class of the division and are favorites to win the division at +120. But when you look at win totals, the Saints and Falcons have the same projection of 9.5.
The Falcons have the easiest schedule of all four NFC South teams according to projected win totals. In the last eight weeks of the season, they actually have the seventh-easiest schedule in the NFL while the Saints have the 31st.
With an improved defense, Atlanta has good value to sneak into a wild-card spot come January. – Evan Abrams
The Bet: Yes – Falcons To Make Playoffs As A Wild-Card Team
Calvin Ridley Over/Under 550 Receiving Yards? (-115/-115)
Betting on a rookie wide receiver tends to be a risky proposition, but Ridley could be the exception.
He turns 24 in December and is only a few months younger than Amari Cooper. Ridley will find a role in the Falcons’ efficient passing attack almost immediately after they selected him in the first round to give defenses someone else to focus on besides Jones.
If Ridley manages to stay healthy all season, he’ll need to manage only 35 yards a game for this to cash.
This prop is about 75 yards too low. – Sean Koerner
The Bet: Over 550 Yards
Use Julio Jones in DFS Cash Games at Home
Jones has balled out no matter where he’s played: According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, he’s averaged the third- and fourth-most DraftKings points per game at home and on the road among all wide receivers since 2014.
Still, Mt. Saint Julio has typically erupted more often at home.
Overall, seven of Jones’ top 10 highest-scoring performances on DraftKings since 2014 have come at home. This hasn’t been lost on the public, as Jones has posted an average ownership rate of 21.2% at home on DraftKings compared to 12.5% on the road. – Ian Hartitz
More on the 2018 Atlanta Falcons
- Julio Jones: Will He Ever Start Scoring More Touchdowns?
- Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman: Can They Continue to Co-Exist?