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Cowboys, Packers headline 10 NFC teams that pose biggest threat to Falcons in 2017

Posted Jul 6, 2017

Which NFC teams pose the biggest threat to the Falcons in 2017? We rank the top 10.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- If there was a clear turning point in the Falcons’ 2016 season, you could make a good case for Week 8 in late October. Atlanta had just fallen to 4-3 following a 33-30 loss to the Chargers in overtime and was staring at a showdown vs. the Packers.

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The Falcons not only knocked off Green Bay, but they closed out the regular season with a 7-2 mark and cruised through the postseason all the way to Super Bowl LI. And we all know what happened there.

But, as quarterback Matt Ryan will remind you, that’s so yesterday. Ask him about it and he’ll politely tell you the Falcons are “on to 2017.”

Atlanta now enters 2017 with perhaps the most complete roster in the NFL – at least Pro Football Focus and ESPN think so. And some of those same outlets are projecting the Falcons to be even better this year. And why not? Atlanta returns virtually all of its starters and addressed its defense through free agency and the draft.

So, the one question Falcons fans want answered is, how will Atlanta get back to – and win – the big game. To answer we’ll look at which teams stand in the Falcons’ path to repeating as NFC champs.

So without further ado, here are 10 teams (listed from least to greatest) that pose the biggest threat. If you disagree, feel free to hit me up on Twitter and let me know all about it.

10. Carolina Panthers

  • 2016 finish: 6-10
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Panthers added offensive firepower through the draft – taking RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel. Carolina also improved its pass rush by bringing back DE Julius Peppers and don’t overlook having a healthy Luke Kuechly back in the lineup. Cam Newton should have a bounce-back year in 2017.

9. Detroit Lions

  • 2016 finish: 9-7, lost 26-6 to Seattle in wild-card round
  • Biggest offseason moves: Detroit beefed up its line in a major way by adding guards T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner, which should pay big dividends for QB Matthew Stafford, who was sacked 40 times (including the postseason). The Lions addressed defensive holes with their first two draft picks – LB Jarrad Davis and CB Teez Tabor.

8. Washington Redskins

  • 2016 finish: 8-7-1
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Redskins added three players coming off solid seasons – WR Terrelle Pryor, safety D.J. Swearinger and LB Zach Brown. They also landed a top-five talent in DT Jonathan Allen in the draft. The NFC East should be extremely competitive, but don’t sleep on Washington.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 2016 finish: 9-7
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Buccaneers added WR Desean Jackson and drafted TE O.J. Howard, which should make their offense even more dangerous. Tampa also addressed its defense by drafting safety Justin Evans, who could end up starting in Week 1.

6. Arizona Cardinals

  • 2016 finish: 7-8-1
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Cardinals are built to win now, and drafted freakishly athletic OLB Haason Reddick – who will line up inside, outside and blitz from anywhere. They addressed the back end of their defense, too, by drafting Budda Baker, a safety who reminds some of ex-Colt Bob Sanders.

5. Philadelphia Eagles

  • 2016 finish: 7-9
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Eagles got budding star Carson Wentz some help on the outside, signing WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They also got some protection up front, signing ex-Titans guard Chance Warmack. Philly addressed it defense with its first three picks, taking DE Derek Barnett, CB Sidney Jones and CB Rasul Douglas. Jones is coming off a torn Acchilles.

4. New York Giants

  • 2016 finish: 11-5, lost 38-13 to Green Bay in wild-card round
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Giants didn’t make a ton of noise in the offseason, adding veteran WR Brandon Marshall and TE/FB Rhett Ellison via free agency. They also drafted TE Evan Engram, who is considered a very good receiver.

3. Seattle Seahawks

  • 2016 finish: 10-5-1, lost 36-20 to Atlanta in divisional round
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Seahawks addressed their offensive line in free agency and through the draft – signing Luke Joeckel and picking C Ethan Pocic and T Justin Senior. They also added running back Eddie Lacy via free agency, who should help Russell Wilson coming out of the backfield.

2. Dallas Cowboys

  • 2016 finish: 13-3, lost 34-31 to Green Bay in divisional round
  • Biggest offseason moves: Despite a 13-3 finish, Dallas made an early exit from the postseason – largely due to its inability to get to the quarterback. The Cowboys hope top pick DE Taco Charlton helps change that. They also took some big hits in the secondary during free agency, but addressed some of those holes in the draft by taking CBs Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Marquez White as well as SS Xavier Woods.

1. Green Bay Packers

  • 2016 finish: 10-6, lost 44-21 to Atlanta in championship game
  • Biggest offseason moves: The Packers replaced TE Jared Cook with former Patriot Martellus Bennett, who should be an upgrade. The also added ex-Ram TE Lance Kendricks, giving Aaron Rodgers a nice 1-2 punch to play with on offense. Green Bay upgraded its defense by using its first four picks on that side of the ball – CB Kevin King, SS Josh Jones, DT Montravius Adams and OLB Vince Biegel.

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on AtlantaFalcons.com represent those of the individual authors. Unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Atlanta Falcons’ organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. The writers’ views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Falcons officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.