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1 Atlanta Falcons

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The biggest question facing the Falcons is, What will the offense look like under new coordinator STEVE SARKISIAN? In spring there was talk of adding new wrinkles, but doing so is a dangerous game. On the one hand, the fastest way to fall behind in the NFL is to not evolve. On the other, how much do you want to change an offense that last year was one of the greatest in NFL history?

• Under OC Kyle Shanahan (now the 49ers' head coach), the Falcons' ground game and aerial attack were in perfect sync. The outside zone run blocking naturally helped sell the play-action game, which Atlanta used a league-high 27% of the time, according to Football Outsiders. This helped turn shrewd field surveyor MATT RYAN into the MVP.

• Expect to see TEVIN COLEMAN and DEVONTA FREEMAN on the field together more often. Both are top 10 NFL ballcarriers, and both can split out wide and win as receivers. With both backs out there, defenses will struggle to identify which players to put on the field, let alone what coverage to call.

• The Falcons made Super Bowl LI because their young defense improved drastically. After allowing 28.3 points a game before their Week 11 bye, they gave up just 22.0 (including playoffs). The improvements were most apparent in the middle. Rookie linebackers DEION JONES and DE'VONDRE CAMPBELL and rookie strong safety KEANU NEAL were much sharper mentally. Offenses had been attacking them with deep routes by inside receivers; once they figured out how to recognize those plays, the whole D stepped up.

• Amazingly, Atlanta's secondary performed better after DESMOND TRUFANT, a top five all-around corner, went down with a torn left pectoral in Week 9. JALEN COLLINS performed well outside, and ROBERT ALFORD traveled with No. 1 receivers all over, including into the slot. In fact, he outplayed Julian Edelman in Super Bowl LI. Collins has been suspended 10 games for a PED violation, but the Falcons still have quality depth with BRIAN POOLE and DEJI OLATOYE. Expect Quinn to call on multiple backups. Last season he increasingly played man coverage and used a four-cornerback dime package.

"BOTH FREEMAN AND COLEMAN ARE TOP 10 BALLCARRIERS WHO CAN SPLIT OUT WIDE AND WIN AS RECEIVERS."

SI'S 2017 PREDICTION

12--4

2016 RECORD 11--5

SEPT. 10

AT CHI

SEPT. 17

VS. GB

SEPT. 24

AT DET

OCT. 1

VS. BUF

BYE

OCT. 15

VS. MIA

OCT. 22

AT NE

OCT. 29

AT NYJ

NOV. 5

AT CAR

NOV. 12

VS. DAL

NOV. 20

MONDAY

AT SEA

NOV. 26

VS. TB

DEC. 3

VS. MIN

DEC. 7

THURSDAY

VS. NO

DEC. 18

MONDAY

AT TB

DEC. 24

AT NO

DEC. 31

VS. CAR

Position Rankings

QB

4

SKILL

3

Strength

OL

7

FRONT 7

14

DBs

5

ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400

9 JULIO JONES WR

28 MATT RYAN QB

32 ALEX MACK C

44 DESMOND TRUFANT CB

91 TEVIN COLEMAN RB

92 DEVONTA FREEMAN RB

114 VIC BEASLEY DE

116 JAKE MATTHEWS T

131 RYAN SCHRAEDER T

168 GRADY JARRETT DT

184 ROBERT ALFORD CB

216 KEANU NEAL SS

230 DEION JONES LB

271 DONTARI POE NT

295 JALEN COLLINS CB

399 TAYLOR GABRIEL WR