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Atlanta Falcons 2023 Season Preview Analysis, Odds & Best Bet for Win Totals 

Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons NFL quarterback
Desmond Ridder 4 of the Atlanta Falcons throws the ball during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes Benz Stadium on January 08 2023 Todd KirklandGetty ImagesAFP

NFL Pick: 2023 Atlanta Falcons Over 8.5 Wins (-145) at BetRivers


The Atlanta Falcons only managed the same 7-10 record they had in coach Arthur Smith’s rookie season in 2021, but they definitely played better on both sides of the ball last year.  

A young quarterback, an exciting top draft pick, and a division that offers a real opportunity with nemesis Tom Brady gone in Tampa Bay have the Falcons looking more optimistically at the 2023 season. The top online sportsbooks agree as the Falcons have an over/under of 8.5 wins at many of the best betting apps. 

But should you trust an unknown like Desmond Ridder and take the Falcons to go over 8.5 wins? We examine a franchise looking for its first winning record since the 2017 season.  


Significant Modifications

The Falcons are hoping to build around a very young core on offense, and the defense has added some veterans to help ease a new defensive coordinator into the job after Dean Pees retired.  

The New Atlanta Offense 

The Falcons are hoping they nailed these last few drafts to secure their offense for the next several years with quarterback Desmond Ridder, rookie running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London, and tight end Kyle Pitts

Ridder seemed to understand the assignment of getting London the ball last year, so that may be the combination to watch here as Pitts takes on less of a receiving role than he did with Ryan at quarterback.  

But in an ideal Arthur Smith offense, the running back is going to be the star of the show a la Derrick Henry in Tennessee. That is why the Falcons drafted Texas running back Bijan Robinson with the No. 8 pick despite already having a 5th-round rookie rush for 1,000 yards last year, and they still have the versatile talent called Cordarrelle Patterson on the roster. 

Rich Gets Richer

Why strengthen a strength? This is Atlanta’s identity. It wants to run the ball more than anyone, and Robinson is the latest in a line of running backs who get the “best prospect since Adrian Pederson” buzz. He may at least be the best prospect since Saquon Barkley in 2018, and Robinson can add to the team’s receiving game from the position as well. But while he is a better runner than Allgeier, it is questionable just how much any running back can really move the needle for a team in today’s NFL. 

Henry in Tennessee is a rare case, and even he was on a team that finished with a losing record last year just like those with rushing champion Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Nick Chubb (Browns) had.  

But in a draft class that was not considered that great at the top, it would at least make sense for a team fit that the Falcons would be the team to draft Robinson. He will no doubt get his touches here, but the Falcons have to make sure they are bringing Ridder along and building that great chemistry with Pitts and London.  

If Ridder is the real deal, then the Falcons have a great setup here for him. However, it is always sketchy when you are talking about a 3rd-round pick as someone like Russell Wilson is an outlier.  

Atlanta’s Defense Adds New (Old) Blood 

The Falcons have seemingly struggled on defense for most of the franchise’s existence, but they are going to be different this year with new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who comes over from the Saints where he helped call plays for Dennis Allen.  

Atlanta’s pass rush was abysmal last year with 21 sacks, which ranked 31st. The Saints and Falcons both barely blitzed, doing so about 16.5% of the time according to Pro Football Reference. But the Saints more than doubled Atlanta’s sack total thanks to having some better rushers like Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis. 

The Saints also got 5 sacks from defensive tackle David Onyemata, who is now with the Falcons. He is one of several defensive veterans the Falcons have added this off-season. They also snatched safety Jessie Bates from the Bengals, who had some key plays for that team during the last two runs to the AFC Championship Game. 

Calais Campbell is in Atlanta for his 16th season, and the 37-year-old can offer some good snaps and leadership. The Falcons also are giving edge rusher Bud Dupree a shot after two disappointing seasons in Tennessee following his torn ACL suffered with the Steelers just when he was having his best year in 2020.  

There is not a lot of long-term front-seven talent for the Falcons here, but they are loaded with veterans who can learn on the fly with ease. But the Falcons chose to build more on offense with the draft’s top picks going on Robinson and new left guard Matthew Bergeron.  

2023 Schedule Analysis

When the division favorite has Derek Carr at quarterback, it is fair to say no one looks ready to run away with the division. Tampa Bay won the NFC South last year with an 8-9 record while the other teams all finished 7-10 and were very close to being on top. 

The Falcons might want to thank the schedule makers again this year for giving them a setup that looks rather favorable to finally getting back to a winning record.  

Here are some notable schedule facts for the Falcons in 2023: 

  • Atlanta opens with Carolina (Week 1), which has a new coach (Frank Reich) and rookie quarterback (Bryce Young) expected to make his first start. Historically, rookies tend to struggle, and the Panthers are lacking in weapons after trading away Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore in the last year. 
  • In fact, the Falcons are scheduled to face 4 games against teams with rookie quarterbacks, including the Texans in Week 5 (C.J. Stroud) and Colts in Week 16 (Anthony Richardson).  
  • The Packers come to Atlanta in Week 2, and Jordan Love is an unknown for Green Bay who may not be firing on all cylinders yet. 
  • The Falcons will likely be underdogs in Detroit (Week 3) and Jacksonville (Week 4), but it would be wrong to think they won’t have a fair shot in both games, especially if Ridder is legitimate.  
  • Washington (Week 6) and Tampa Bay (Week 7) are two more very winnable games with Sam Howell and Baker Mayfield possibly being the quarterbacks for those teams this year. The Falcons also play in Arizona (Week 10). The 2023 Cardinals are projected to be the worst in the NFL this season. 
  • The best quarterbacks the Falcons can expect to see in the second half of the season are potentially Kirk Cousins (Vikings – Week 9), Aaron Rodgers (Jets – Week 13), and Derek Carr twice (Saints). 
  • The Falcons get a bye (Week 11) before facing the Saints at home. 

What is that schedule missing? The Falcons do not play any of the top 6 teams in Super Bowl odds this year: 

  • Chiefs
  • Eagles
  • Bills
  • 49ers
  • Bengals
  • Cowboys)

Instead, the Falcons get a whopping 9 games against the bottom 7 teams in Super Bowl odds

  • Texans
  • Cardinals
  • Buccaneers
  • Colts
  • Panthers
  • Titans
  • Commanders

The Pick

Obviously, the Falcons are not good enough to beat all those underwhelming teams, but that is where most of their wins should come from in 2023. Given how easy it is for a running back to dominate right away in the NFL, the Falcons have a great opportunity to win over 8.5 games with this schedule. 

You should definitely consider taking them over for your NFL ATLS bets this year. 

NFL Pick: 2023 Atlanta Falcons Over 8.5 Wins (-145) at BetRivers


2022 Recap: Ground Control Keeps Falcons Grounded  

Even when the Falcons are having a run of losing seasons like they have been since 2018, they usually provide us with some entertainment value in the way they blow such winnable games and huge leads. 

But Arthur Smith’s Atlanta teams have not been quite as fun as the teams with Dan Quinn and Matt Ryan. In 2021, the Falcons were 7-10 but statistically in the running for the worst 7-win team in NFL history. The only real bright spot was enough targets were fed to make Kyle Pitts a 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie tight end. 

Moving On 

But with Calvin Ridley suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling, the Falcons moved on to wide receiver Drake London as the new No. 1 to go along with Pitts. However, with Marcus Mariota replacing Ryan at quarterback, the Falcons moved to a run-heavy approach to fit what Mariota is more comfortable with in his days as a Titans quarterback when Arthur Smith was his coordinator. 

Of course, Mariota was benched in 2019 and the Titans only took off after Ryan Tannehill replaced him, so Mariota and Smith have not really worked well together. Smith’s solution to this in 2022 seemed to be to feature Mariota as little as necessary. Mariota attempted more than 30 passes in one game all season, and he only surpassed 230 yards in one game that went to overtime. 

Running Wild

The Falcons ran the ball a league-high 559 times, helping 5th-round rookie Tyler Allgeier to 1,035 rushing yards. But while London caught 72 balls for 866 yards as a rookie in a limited passing attack, the weekly question became what’s happened to Pitts at tight end? While he missed 7 full games to injury and only played 24 snaps in his final appearance in Week 11, Pitts had a massively disappointing season with just 28 catches for 356 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

By the time the Mariota experiment soured and rookie Desmond Ridder took over the team, Pitts was already out for the season with injury. We never got to see Ridder and Pitts play together in 2022, though it seems unlikely the Falcons would have tried throwing a ton with the rookie in the game. 

Taking Over

But the Falcons took an interesting, competitive start to the season and turned it into a poor, disappointing finish. The team was sitting at 5-6, which was still division title territory for the 2022 NFC South, but the Falcons lost 4 games in a row despite the defense never allowing more than 21 points in any of the games. 

Ridder took over the starting job after the Week 14 bye and started the final 4 games. Ridder did not throw any interceptions or touchdowns until his 4th start when he had a pair of scores in a win over the Buccaneers, who had the division locked up and were not going all out to win that game. 

But hey, the Falcons ended 2022 with their first and only win over Tom Brady, so that’s a positive at least.


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