According to a statistic I saw on Pro-Football-Reference.com last summer, which I updated for this year, it seems that there’s a 65% chance that Bobby Petrino will be able to improve upon the Falcons 7-9 record this year. Not overwhelming odds, but decent. Interestingly enough, based off that statistic, the Falcons would have a 63.5% chance of improving had they kept Mora. But that’s a subject I don’t want to get into.
I don’t know what sort of expectations to have for this season. On one hand, I could see the Falcons winning 10 or 11 games, assuming Vick takes to Petrino’s offense well, and Zimmer improves the play and consistency of the defense. But on the other hand, I could see this as a “rebuilding” year in which the coaches and players struggle to get on the same page at times, which means we could only win 6 or 7 games, finishing with roughly the same record.
But I’m leaning towards the former. I think the Falcons will be in playoff contention. I think we have as good a chance as anybody to win the division this year. We’ll have to see what we get in the draft and see how the schedule is exactly ordered before I can really get into some firm predictions, but I like our chances.
There are no pushover opponents on our schedule. Even if we enter a week playing a 1-8 Houston Texans team, recent history shows us that is no guaranteed win for us (see 2005 Packers game). Division games are always tough, and we’ll be playing the AFC South and NFC West, two divisions that will be tough as well. We’ll be playing several potential lame duck coaches including Coughlin, Del Rio, Fox, and Gruden, which is never a good circumstance, since it often means those teams will be very good or very bad.
But it’ll be interesting to see what Petrino and his offense are capable of. I know most are expecting Vick to have a breakout year, and although I expect improvement, I’m not sure if it’ll be a breakout year. I’ve been expecting that breakout year for the past 4 seasons, and it really hasn’t come yet. Also I wonder how reliable the running game will be. Sure, Petrino is talking about committing to a power-oriented rushing attack, but plenty of coaches talk really big about running the ball and controlling the clock in the off-season, but when the season starts that evaporates. Often because the team is so bad defensively, they are forced to pass all the time. I don’t expect that to happen to the Falcons, but you never know. Injuries can throw wrinkles into your entire season outlook.
The schedule is expected to come out next week, and the draft is in 3 weeks, so of course a month of now I may have a completely new outlook. But I’m looking forward to this season, and I hoping I have something to cheer about in January as opposed to the past two seasons.