Modestly, if at all.
Expectations were a tricky thing heading into this season. The Falcons talked about balancing this year versus the future, but also insisted they were a team that intended to contend. Their bargain basement offseason and Julio Jones trade undercut that and it was fair to expect some struggles, so I would say most fans didn’t expect the moon. The question was whether this team could surprise with a brand new coaching staff and key additions like Kyle Pitts, or whether they’d simply disappoint yet again in 2021.
Our staff weighed in on this question, and the consensus is that our expectations have not shifted dramatically after the first five weeks of the season. The team is 2-3, have had a couple of strong efforts against weaker teams, and have a couple of really tough losses, but seem to be heading in the right direction. If this team was 4-1 and rolling or 1-4 and awful, it’d probably be time for us to take stock of our predictions and consider how they might change. Where they’re in a spot where they’re still sort of in things and potentially decent, it’s probably not time for that yet.
Your mileage may vary, however. Be sure to chime in via the comments and our poll at the end of the article. For the sake of consideration, here’s what a roughly 2,400 vote poll we ran on Twitter turned up for results, with the majority of respondents thinking the Falcons will settle into the 6-7 win range.
We’re settled into the bye week, and the Falcons are 2-3. Based on what you’ve seen so far in 2021, how many wins will this team finish with?
— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) October 13, 2021
No, not really
I had the Falcons finishing the year at 8-9 before the season began, and I don’t really see any reason to move off that after the past five games. The opening loss to the Eagles was alarming but looks more and more like a fluke driven by an (admittedly frustrating) lack of preparedness and Week 1 weirdness. Other than a rough loss at the hands of one of the best teams in the NFL, they’ve managed to be competitive in every game, and their schedule is loaded with games that an improving Falcons team have a credible chance of winning.
This all assumes the Falcons do continue to make strides—they’re not going to get the Jets and Giants every week, so they have to—but I’m still expecting an up-and-down, roller coaster ride of a season where Atlanta finishes the year with a losing but not awful record. The name of the game is progress. —Dave Choate
Ever so slightly
Going into this season we knew the Falcons would only win games if the offense was clicking. The Eagles game was a wake-up call that the installation of this offense may be long and painful. However, the past two games have shown an offense that is improving rapidly with the team scoring 30 and 27 points in consecutive games. If this continues, the offense may be ahead of the curve – particularly when you compare it to Shanahan in 2015.
The defense still has no pass rush, but the secondary has been a bit better than expected. It’s still not a good unit, but there are players to build around for the future. A.J. Terrell has been very good in year 2 and Jaylinn Hawkins looks like a starter for 2022, if not sooner. All of this adds up to a team that is trending up but is probably still an outside shot to make the playoffs. – David Walker
I say this slightly in jest, but just slightly. Honestly, what did we expect Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot to say upon taking the reigns on this franchise? “Oh, it’s going to be a tough slog for probably two, maybe three years.” Nobody would say that, and it’s totally understandable that they didn’t. The only way to actually surprise people is to actually *stares longingly at his picture of Ted Lasso* believe, and that’s what this staff is trying to do.
But now to the actual question – no, this doesn’t change my expectations, because I didn’t really have any for this season. Football is still fun, and it’s okay to enter a year understanding that it’s not the year. Interestingly enough, I do have about 13 percent of me that thinks this team could actually become a Cinderella. I’ve seen early-season improvement like this before, and it’s usually not a fluke. I still don’t trust this roster, though, which is why I continue to dampen my expectations. – Will McFadden
Expectations went out the window with the Julio Jones trade
I so desperately wanted to see Atlanta’s newest acquisition, Kyle Pitts, playing on the same field with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The Falcons would need an unmatched bevy of elite play-makers to overcome serious roster deficiencies. Even under the most optimistic outlook on the roster and with Julio staying, there was still only so much room for error. After the Julio trade, the thought the Falcons could win the division went out the window. We are luckily seeing some great progress from an atrocious start, and the rest of the NFC South outside of Tampa may be beatable, so there is a chance the team can exceed expectations. Regardless of if they do or not, the Falcons look about how you would have expected. – Matt Chambers