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NFL

Falcons 2022 NFL season preview, schedule: can Atlanta return to Playoffs?

In 2021, Arthur Blank began the rebuilding of the Falcons. Last season he hired head coach Arthur Smith and for 2022 he has replaced QB Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota.

Update:
Stanley Berryhill, Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder y Arthur Smith con los Falcons
Icon SportswireGetty

By trading Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, Falcons owner Arthur Blank ended an era in Atlanta. Now, the fate of the organisation rests in the hands of head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Marcus Mariota.

On paper it might seem like the Falcons have a bleak outlook for 2022. However, multiple factors, both within the franchise and within the division and the NFC, could help get Atlanta into the postseason.

WR London added to Atlanta ranks in Draft

Although the team’s passing game looks diminished - Julio Jones was traded to the Tennessee Titans in 2021, Calvin Ridley has been suspended for the season and Russell Gage has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - the Falcons used their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to recruit Drake London.

The USC graduate, one of the top prospects at wide receiver during April’s event in Las Vegas, will join Kyle Pitts, who led the Falcons in receiving yards (1,026) in 2021.

In terms of the Falcons’ rushing game, Smith has found in Cordarrelle Patterson, a former wide receiver turned running back, his best option to run the ball. Last season, the Tennessee product had 1,166 total yards and 11 touchdowns.

The biggest question mark in the Falcons’ offence is Mariota, who has only started six games since 2019. Fortunately for Atlanta, in the Draft they opted for Desmond Ridder, one of the cornerstones of the project which led Cincinnati to its first College Football Playoff.

On the other side of the ball, Atlanta’s defence (the seventh-worst in the league last year) was bolstered by the selection of Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Anderson and DeAngelo Malone. In free agency, the franchise added the likes of Casey Hayward, Lorenzo Cartes, Isaiah Oliver and Rashaan Evans.

Falcons’ schedule could offer helping hand

Another cause for optimism at the Falcons is their schedule. Even though their opponents combined for a record of 151-137-1 (.524 winning average) in 2021, they will be up against teams such as the Seahawks, the Browns (prior to Deshaun Watson’s scheduled return) and the Bears.

Additionally, the NFC South allows for internal competition. The Buccaneers look like the overwhelming favourites, but the Carolina Panthers are an unknown quantity and it remains to be seen how the New Orleans Saints will operate in Dennis Allen’s first year as head coach.

Atlanta Falcons

Record in 2021: 7-10

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Super Bowl titles: 0

Head coach: Arthur Smith

Offensive coordinator: Dave Ragone

Defensive coordinator: Dean Pees

Falcons’ 2022 NFL schedule

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5
vs Saintsat Ramsat Seahawksvs Brownsat Buccaneers
Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10
vs 49ersat Bengalsvs Panthersvs Chargersat Panthers
Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15
vs Bearsat Commandersvs SteelersBYEat Saints
Week 16Week 17Week 18
at Ravensvs Cardinalsvs Buccaneers

See also: The top 10 must-watch NFL games in 2022

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