Vegas picked the Atlanta Falcons to win four games in 2022, but they nearly doubled that amount going 7-10. They were handicapped by nearly $84 million in dead contracts, but still overachieved relative to expectations.
After emerging from cap hell, the Falcons rebuilt their defense in free agency and added another potent weapon via the NFL Draft in running back Bijan Robinson.
However, the Falcons enter the 2023 season with a bit of an unknown at quarterback. It’s no surprise that ESPN picked Desmond Ridder as the Falcons’ biggest question heading into head coach Arthur Smith’s third season.
Falcons’ beat writer for ESPN Michael Rothstein likes what he’s seen from Ridder and the team around him.
“This likely won’t be something truly answerable until the Falcons are well into the season,” wrote Rothstein on ESPN. “Atlanta has given Ridder a lot of protection in a well-paid, veteran offensive line and lined the offense with elite skill position players at running back (Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson), wide receiver (Drake London) and tight end (Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith).”
“If Ridder proves he’s a competent NFL quarterback, he’ll have the help around him to shine and keep Atlanta moving offensively while enduring potential growing pains in his first full season as a starter. If Ridder shows he can take a big step from his four-start rookie season, the Falcons will have a dynamic, diverse offense which will be difficult to defend.”
Ridder got better in every start for the Atlanta Falcons last year. His ratings in those four games were 59.3, 85.2, 90.1, and finally 108.2 in the season finale against the Buccaneers.
The Falcons have other questions heading into 2023 including the health of Kyle Pitts, a defense full of new faces, and how well Smith can coach a team with higher expectations.
But Ridder is the big wildcard heading into 2023. The Falcons were a top-15 scoring offense last season. Another field goal per game would have put them in the top 10.
An incrementally better offense with a re-vamped defense will have the Falcons competing for the NFC South crown and a spot in the playoffs.