Following the Atlanta Falcons' latest loss to the New Orleans Saints, social media was quick to point out that President-elect Joe Biden has won more in Georgia than the Falcons have this year.
It's true, if you count each of Biden's official victories (after the original count, after the hand-count audit, and after the machine recount), the President-elect has secured three victories in the Peach State while the Falcons have managed just two this year.
Put another way...it's been a rough season for Falcons fans.
The Falcons season has descended into another 4-8 mess with coaches and the front office already fired and four games (three on the road, one at home) left on the schedule for the team to either improve or hurt their draft position heading into the 2021 offseason. The Falcons' offense has been acceptable, but the passing defense has been abysmal.
Looking at the defensive statistics, the Falcons rank 26th in passing attempts allowed (450), 30th in passing yards allowed (3,423), 25th in passing touchdowns allowed (24), 21st in interceptions (8), and 29th in net yards gained per pass attempt (7.2). Atlanta's leading sacker has just 3.5 sacks on the season and the player leading the team in defensive pressure is defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. While that is great news for Jarrett, only Dante Fowler has more than 15 QB hurries on the season. Unfortunately, Fowler also leads the team in missed tackle percentage as well.
Offensively, the Falcons' passing offense remains dangerous, ranking seventh overall in the NFL. But, the running game, a weakness for several seasons, continues to struggle ranking 25th in the league. What's worse, the Falcons are tied for last in the NFL with just 3.7 yards per rush and have managed just 1,208 yards on the ground this season, roughly 100 yards per game.
Part of that can be attributed to the offensive line which has also not done well protecting quarterback Matt Ryan. This season, the line has a rate of 6.2 (20th in the NFL) for percentage of time sacked when attempting to pass. This is despite multiple first round picks and high paid players along the offensive line.
One bright spot for Atlanta has been kicker Younghoe Koo. The youngster has made 32 of 33 field goals this season and 23 of 26 extra points, making him one of best kickers in the National Football League. However, when it comes to kick and punt returns, the Falcons have not performed well. The Falcons have returned just 13 punts this season for 108 yards and no touchdowns. They've also only returned 17 kicks this season (28th in league) for 334 yards (30th in league) and no touchdowns.
So what next? It all depends on how the Falcons finish the season.
The team will have major decisions to make in the offseason dealing with the salary cap and several players. The Falcons may have to consider a full rebuild or one more shot at making the team a contender with the current roster. Either way, they will have significant decisions to make to get under the 2021 NFL salary cap. As of Tuesday, the Falcons are projected to be approximately $25 million over next year's salary cap, per Spotrac.com.
Also impacting their decision making will be where they could possibly be in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Falcons could look to improve their pass rush but as of now there aren't a lot of high-quality pass rushers in the draft. The decision will come down to where are the Falcons drafting, currently they sit around 10th, and will they stick with Matt Ryan for the future. If the team picks high enough, they could grab one of the top level passers in the draft if they move on from Ryan. If they stick with Matty Ice they could look for more defensive help or even go after someone like Kyle Pitts out of the University of Florida to give them a dynamic, pass-catching tight end.
There are plenty of questions to be answered in the final four weeks for the Falcons, but when the offseason begins, there will be a lot of changes going on in Flowery Branch.