The late comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield will always be known for his iconic line, "I don't get no respect!"
Well, Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report, doesn't think the Atlanta Falcons are getting any respect these days, either. While Gagnon acknowledges the Falcons' 7-9 finish last season, he explains why many might be overlooking the Falcons heading into 2020 – and that it might be a mistake.
Gagnon opens his piece by noting all of the popular favorites to come out of the NFC this season – the 49ers, Saints, Seahawks, Rams, Eagles, Vikings, Packers, Cowboys, Bucs and Cardinals – and how not one of those 10 teams won more games than the Falcons over the second half of the season. Not one of those teams "have lower Super Bowl odds than an Atlanta team that is listed as a 25-1 shot to win the NFC in 2020," Gagnon writes.
Gagnon, who refers to Atlanta as the NFC's "Rodney Dangerfield this offseason," writes that the Falcons "deserve more respect and attention" for the way they finished the second half of 2019, capping it with a 6-2 record. He also notes that the Falcons outscored their opponents "by the second-highest margin in the conference during that stretch."
The optimism doesn't end there for Gagnon, either. He points out that with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Alex Mack, the Falcons still have "the three players whom Pro-Football-Reference deemed to be the most valuable from that 2016 team" that went to Super Bowl LI on the roster – along with Jake Matthews and key defenders Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal. Oh, and Dan Quinn is still the head coach.
Gagnon writes that there was "a lot to like" about the Falcons' offseason moves, despite having a tight salary cap. He called "swapping out" Vic Beasley for Dante Fowler and his high ceiling an upgrade. He noted the addition of Todd Gurley, a 2018 first-team All-Pro, on a low-risk deal. And even though the Falcons "could miss" Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, Gagnon notes that Hayden Hurst was a first-round pick "just two years ago."
It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns; Gagnon didn't shy away from some of the issues that have plagued this team over the last few seasons. He noted the issues the offensive line has had protecting Ryan, whom he said has "borderline Hall of Fame credentials." Gagnon also wrote that the defense will still likely be seen as "a liability" but noted that "they surrendered only 18.6 points per game during that hot second half last year."
Even though Falcons coaches will never mention it as an excuse, Gagnon also noted that Atlanta has been "hit particularly hard by injuries" on defense the last couple years, and writes that "the law of averages will eventually favor them in that realm."
Despite having more "flaws" than some of those aforementioned elite teams, Gagnon concludes that the Falcons "have a scary, overlooked combination of playoff pedigree and balanced talent. Ruling them out would be foolish."