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NFL power rankings countdown to training camp: Atlanta Falcons, No. 28

The 2021 NFL training camp is just around the corner. We break down the top 32 teams. Today, we look at the Atlanta Falcons who rank No. 28 in our preseason power rankings.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) catches a pass during mandatory minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Complex. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have not gone into full tank mode just yet, but unloading veteran star Julio Jones is a nod in that direction. But instead of grabbing a quarterback early in this year’s draft, they went ahead and grabbed tight end Kyle Pitts and will stick with Matt Ryan at quarterback. There is talent in Atlanta on the offensive side of the ball, but they will struggle defensively and miss Jones this year.

2020 record

4-12, 4th in NFC South

2020 defense

Points: 25.9 points per game, rank 19th
Yards: 6.2 yards per play, rank 29th (tie)
Football Outsiders Ranking: 14th

2020 offense

Points: 24.8 points per game, rank 16th
Yards: 5.5 yards per play, rank 18th (tie)
Football Outsiders Ranking: 21st

2021 DraftKings Sportsbook odds

Super Bowl: +6000
AFC/NFC Champion: +2500
Win Total: 7.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

Offseason moves

The Falcons let Dan Quinn go and replaced him with the Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Smith did a good job of maximizing the talent on offense in Tennessee, so there is hope for the Falcons. They did trade off their future Hall-of-Famer in Julio Jones to save some cash and brought in Mike Davis to be their starting running back. Keeping Matt Ryan and drafting an offensive weapon in Pitts signals the team is still in win now mode, but questions remain.

Biggest question entering training camp

The biggest question for the offense is just how quickly Pitts can become a force offensively. He should get opportunities to see the ball, but we’ve seen tight ends struggle in their rookie seasons. Transitioning to the NFL can be difficult, especially for tight ends who need to become proficient at blocking NFL players and learning their assignments. We could see Pitts used more as a wide receiver early on though, which would help him see snaps.

What needs to happen for the Falcons to win the Super Bowl?

The Falcons will need the offense to click early on, as their defense isn’t going to become a Super Bowl caliber unit this season. The team would need to put up big numbers with Calvin Ridley and Pitts while Davis would need to stay healthy and play better the average, but consistent version we’ve seen in his career. The odds aren’t in their favor of course, but Arthur Smith did wonders with Ryan Tannehill. It will be interesting to see what he can do with Ryan.

2021 Outlook

The Falcons outlook is fairly bleak. There will be some offensive explosions, but overall the team just doesn’t have the talent from top to bottom to compete with the big boys. In all likelihood they should tank for a replacement for Ryan, but they could end up winning enough games to be looking for ways to trade up in the draft in 2022.