The Atlanta Falcons will play their first game of the 2017 NFL regular season against the Chicago Bears this weekend. Although this will be a road game for the Falcons, they’re strong favorites to take the win, against a team that underperformed throughout last year, and that will be missing their best starting talent due to injuries.If you’re a fan of the Falcons, or if you simply want to know more about the team before you start betting on them in 2017, then these are 5 things that you need to know as the season begins.

The Falcons Are Favorites Heading into Their Weekend Game Against the Bears

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Falcons are the favorite team going into their first road game against the Chicago Bears. The Falcons were runners up after a strong campaign and then a spectacular fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Even though they fell apart when they could have gone all the way, they’re still in far better health than the Bears. The Bears lost almost every game that they played last season, and they have lingering injuries in their starting roster.If you’re betting on an outright winner for this weekend, then the Falcons are the easy pick.

A Number of Experts Rank the Falcons in the Top 3 Teams of 2017

If you’ve already seen our power rankings from before the pre-season, then you will know that we have a lot of confidence and respect for what the Falcons are building this year. Now that the pre-season has been and gone, there are a number of experts who are updating their power rankings, and according to most, the Falcons are still one of the best teams in the NFL. ranks the Falcons as 3rd overall in the NFL, saying that “Tough to move the defending NFC champs down, but the Seahawks looked formidable in the preseason. The Falcons did not against the Cardinals. Even the most ardent Atlanta fan will tell you there is some apprehension about new Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian running the attack.”CBS Sports also ranked the Falcons 3rd in their power rankings, saying that “They will be a better team than the one that blew the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean they will get back, but they will win the NFC South.”Sports Blog Nation was even more optimistic than both the official NFL site, and CBS Sports, ranking the Flacons as 2nd in their power rankings after the pre-season. SBNation said that “The team still has all the pieces that made them a nightmare to deal with last year. The offense is mostly unchanged and the defense added Dontari Poe and Takkarist McKinley. As long as Matt Ryan doesn’t revert to a player more like his 2015 self, they’ll be a problem to deal with.”SBNation definitely echoes the sentiments of many analysts who feel that the Falcons have a highly capable offense that will be extremely hard to contain. The Bears will find this out first-hand when they play the Falcons in one of the first games of the season, at Soldier Field on Sunday September 10th.

Not Every Sporting Authority is Confident in the Falcons

Although the falcons will feature at the high end of most of the respected power rankings for the NFL, there are some experts that don’t have any real confidence in this year’s team. ESPN ranks the Atlanta Falcons a conservative 5th in the NFL, saying that “The Falcons have all the tools to make a title run, despite the talk of an extended Super Bowl Hangover.”The Bleacher Report is nowhere near as confident, ranking the Falcons 8th overall in the NFL, and saying that “The Atlanta Falcons still have a lot of firepower on offense. However, the loss of Kyle Shanahan and the transitions to a Steve Sarkisian offense are cause for concern. The Falcons really struggled in their third preseason game against the Cardinals.”

The Falcons Need to Continue Shanahan’s Style of Ground and Aerial Attack

Steve Sarkisian will have a lot of proving to do as the new offensive coordinator of the team, but that doesn’t mean that he should start throwing away the things that have come from Shanahan’s playbook.One thing that worked well last year was the perfect sync between the Atlanta Falcons aerial and ground game. Sarkisian should look at the formations that were used by Shanahan and he should continue to us e them, and maybe iterate on the strategies before making any drastic changes. The benefit of Shanahan’s formations is that they leave plenty of space to move after the snap.

The Defense Has the Potential to Get Better This Year

Last season, the defense didn’t start off as being a strong point of the Falcons squad, and it wasn’t until the bye week that the defensive side started getting their game together. They were allowing 28.3 point per game for the first half of the season, before finishing off the year having only conceded an average of 22 points per game during the end of the regular season and the post-season.Rookies like De’Vondre Campbell, Keanu Neal, and Deion Jones, are now a year more experienced and they’ll be able to build on what they developed at the tail end of last season. There’s a significant amount of depth in the defense at every level, and that means that a solid rotation will not only help development, but also keep injuries at bay. If you’re going to be watching the Falcons this year, then you can expect their defense to catch up to the level of the offense by mid-season.

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