Atlanta's turn as Super Bowl host just came to an end, but the Falcons have been named a early contender for the Lombardi Trophy in next year's game down in Miami.
Bleacher Report's Maurice Motion named the five teams who, as of now, look to have a leg up on the rest of the NFL. The first team mentioned on his list are the Falcons, who had an injury-plagued 7-9 campaign in 2018 after putting together back-to-back playoff appearances. Motion mentions those injuries and believes that the pieces the Falcons get back will have a big impact, especially on defense.
"For the first time under head coach Dan Quinn, the Atlanta Falcons finished with a sub-.500 record," Motion writes. "Injuries on the defensive side of the ball played a part in the team's struggles. Linebacker Deion Jones (foot) along with safeties Keanu Neal (ACL) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) missed most of the year. Assuming they return healthy and safety Damontae Kazee flashes as a ball hawk again, this club should field a unit that's much better than 25th in points allowed."
Another reason Motion likes the Falcons next season is the changes to the coaching staff. Quinn, in addition to being head coach, will assume the defensive coordinator role in Atlanta, and Dirk Koetter will take over as offensive coordinator, replacing Steve Sarkisian. In addition to those changes, the Falcons also hired Ben Kotwica as special teams coordinator and Mike Mularkey as tight ends coach.
There is plenty of talent on Atlanta's roster with established superstars like Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, and emerging young talent on both sides of the ball. There are areas for the Falcons to address this offseason, and some hard decisions to make regarding pending free agents, but Motion believes Atlanta has "few glaring holes and enough talent" to be one of the final two teams left standing next February.