FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes several predictions for the upcoming season as well as who will make the postseason, win the Super Bowl and earn some hardware.
Atlanta's season begins in just two days, and its game against the Philadelphia Eagles will officially mark the beginning of the 2018 NFL season. Ahead of that start, ESPN released their entire NFL preview for 2018, going in depth on all 32 NFL teams.
It's a great visual piece, which naturally means a lot of what makes it interesting and easy to read will be lost here, but I highly recommend going to check it out and applaud the work that went into creating it.
ESPN's football power index gives the Falcons a 35 percent chance to win the NFC South and a 5.7 percent chance to win the Super Bowl. It projects 9.3 wins for the Falcons, who have the eighth-toughest schedule, per FPI.
Unsurprisingly, ESPN's Mike Clay believes rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley will be the Falcons' breakout fantasy star in 2018, saying it shouldn't take long for him to become one of Matt Ryan's top targets. So what should Falcons fans expect in 2018? ESPN's Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure has the answer.
"The Falcons believe they can be contenders with Super Bowl LIII coming to their home stadium," McClure writes. "The biggest question: Will the offense regain the swagger it had two years ago, when it averaged a league-leading 33.8 points per game? The belief is that things should flow better in Year 2 under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Former MVP Matt Ryan has plenty of weapons, led by receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. The addition of rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley is expected to have a significant impact. And the defense, led by Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal and Vic Beasley Jr., has quickly developed into one of the most physical and athletic young units in the league."
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
MMQB: NFL predictions 2018: Playoff picks, Super Bowl champion and more
To preview the upcoming season, the MMQB staff over at Sports Illustrated provided their predictions of how the year will unfold, including who will make the postseason, win the Super Bowl and earn some hardware in 2018.
12 of the 15 writers picked the Falcons to make the playoffs in the NFC, and Andy Benoit believes the Falcons will beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl this season. Benoit also believes Julio Jones will be named the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year, but he's not the only one as Gary Grambling makes the same prediction. The other member of the Falcons garnering support for an award this season is coach Dan Quinn, who Jonathan Jones predicts will win NFL Coach of the Year.
"Speaking of, I think whoever wins the NFC South—the toughest division in football—deserves the coach of the year trophy, and that's why fourth-year head coach Dan Quinn gets it in his third straight trip to the postseason," Jones writes.
To read MMQB's entire predictions for 2018, click here.
NFL.com: 2018 NFL playoff predictions
Like MMQB, NFL.com's analysts also released their predictions for who will make the postseason this year. 13 of the 21 experts picked the Saints to win the NFC South, with the Falcons receiving the other eight votes. Atlanta was picked as the No. 1 wild card team, receiving six of the votes and edging out the Packers and Vikings, who each received five votes.
"From ownership down, the Falcons loom as one of the best-run organizations in the NFL," NFL.com's Marc Sessler wrote. Top-shelf general manager Thomas Dimitroff has worked wonders alongside a Dan Quinn-led coaching staff that milks the most out of its players. The reward will be sweeter than honey from a bee."