Chris Simms has identified the Atlanta Falcons as a surprise playoff candidate as they look to build on their strong finish to the 2019 campaign.
Having started last season 1-7 after a six-game losing streak, the Falcons responded by winning six of their final eight matchups, including victories over the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
The run ultimately kept Dan Quinn his job as head coach and now after a string of offseason changes, Atlanta are gearing up to play their part in an intriguing NFC South containing a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I do like them, their biggest problem is depth,” Pro Football Talk’s Simms told Sky Sports News. “When you take just their starters you go ‘woah they can play with anybody in football’. The last two years they’ve been a little unfortunate.
“They’ve been ravished by injuries and they haven’t been able to sustain any consistency, starting off 1-7, finished strong but so what? It’s too late once you start off 1-7.
“Julio Jones, arguably the best receiver in football. Matt Ryan certainly a top 10 quarterback. They’ve got Calvin Ridley who’s another up-and-coming star wide receiver.”
The Falcons bid farewell to running back Devonta Freeman after six seasons, before signing a worthy replacement in Todd Gurley after he was released by the Los Angeles Rams. They also acquired help at tight end in the form of Baltimore Ravens 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst and brought in former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell as he looks to reignite his career.
Atlanta addressed their 20th ranked defense by signing former Rams defensive end Dante Fowler on a three-year, $48m deal to support the likes of Takkarist McKinley, while drafting Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell in the first round before taking Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson in round two.
“The defense has some household names. So I do look at them as a team, especially in the NFC South, we talk about the Saints and Drew Brees and Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, they’re kind of sleeping under the radar there and I would not be surprised if they’re one of those teams that did not make the playoffs last year but is in the playoffs this year,” added Simms.
“Football and the NFL it’s almost about a 50 per cent turnover rate every year when it comes to new playoff teams.
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