2021 Betting Preview: Atlanta Falcons


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2021 Betting Preview: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have been on a descent to the Earth’s crust since they let Super Bowl LI slip away, and they truly bottomed out last season with a 4-12 record (7-9 ATS). They failed to make the playoffs (-280) for the third straight season and they finished dead last in the NFC South for the first time since 2007, which helped them draft Matt Ryan the following spring. Owner Arthur Blank cleaned house after the Falcons started the season with a five-game losing streak. Blank axed GM Thomas Dimitroff, who came in with Ryan in 2008, as well as HC Dan Quinn, who racked up a 43-42 record with a Super Bowl appearance in five-plus seasons. The franchise has been haunted by blown leads since they squandered a 28-3 second-half lead to the Patriots in that infamous Super Bowl, and they had eight losses by seven or fewer points last season.

The Falcons scored the 16th-most points per game (24.8) and they allowed the 14th-most points per game, which resulted in a 9-7 mark toward unders. Atlanta finished a miserable 2-8 in one-score games and 2-1 in contests decided by three scores or more, and they ended the year with the 15th-worst point differential (-18).

Atlanta’s 2021 win total (7.5) dropped by half a victory after its lack of defensive talent was exposed last year. The Falcons fell four wins shy of their 2020 win total and they locked in their under with their ninth loss of the season to the Chargers in Week 14. Entering this season, I have the Falcons power rated as the 23rd-best team in the NFL (+6000 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 12th-best team in the NFC (+2500 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the NFC South (+800).

2021 Schedule

Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.

1Philadelphia Eagles-3.51
2@Tampa Bay Buccaneers+9.54:05
3@New York Giants+2.51
4Washington Football Team-31
5New York Jets (London)-39:30 a.m.
7@Miami Dolphins+3.51
8Carolina Panthers-3.51
9@New Orleans Saints+61
10@Dallas Cowboys+5.51
11New England Patriots-1.58:20 (Thurs)
12@Jacksonville JaguarsPK1
13Tampa Bay Buccaneers-4.51
14@Carolina Panthers+1.51
15@San Francisco 49ers+8.54:05
16Detroit Lions-7.51
17@Buffalo Bills+8.51
18New Orleans Saints-11

The Good

The Falcons will face the 12th-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), and they have a chance to get off to a strong start with matchups against the Eagles, Giants, Jets, and Panthers in their first seven games. They also have showdowns with the Jaguars (Week 14) and Lions (Week 16) later in the season to give them a chance for a bounce-back campaign. Atlanta has just one game against an opponent coming off of a bye, which comes in Week 14 against the Panthers. The NFL also scheduled them for just one primetime contest, against the Patriots on Thursday Night Football in Week 11.

The Bad

Atlanta has only seven true home games this season with one of its home games moved to London and its 17th game coming on the road against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. The Falcons have four matchups against teams lined at 10.5 wins or more among the Bucs (x2), 49ers, and Bills. Atlanta’s toughest stretch of games comes in Weeks 7-11 when they square off against the Dolphins, Saints, Cowboys, and Patriots, who are each lined at 9+ victories.

Key Off-season Moves

Mike Davis (RB)Kyle Pitts (TE)Julio Jones (WR, Ten)
Cordarrelle Patterson (KR/PR)Richie Grant (S)Todd Gurley (RB)
Barkevious Mingo (OLB)Jalen Mayfield (OT)Brian Hill (RB, Ten)
Erik Harris (S)Darren Hall (CB)James Carpenter (OG)
Fabian Moreau (CB)Drew Dalman (C)Alex Mack (C, SF)
Duron Harmon (SS)Charles Harris (DE, Det)
A.J. McCarron (QB)Darqueze Dennard (CB)
Damontae Kazee (S, Dal)
Ricardo Allen (S, Cin)
Keanu Neal (S, Dal)

2021 Season Odds

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)7.5 (-110/-110)
NFC South+800
Playoffs (Y/N)+240/-303
NFC Championship+2500
Super Bowl+6000

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 7 (-143) in late March to 7.5 (-110)

  • Super Bowl: +5000 in early February to +6000

Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total

The Falcons’ franchise has slowly gone off the rails ever since they blew a 28-3 lead against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI and it culminated with owner Arthur Blank firing Dan Quinn after the Falcons opened last season on a five-game losing streak. The Falcons may have one of the weaker rosters in the league, but they should be a well-coached outfit with Arthur Smith taking over as head coach. He’s run one of the best offenses in the league the last two seasons and he lured Dean Pees out of his one-year retirement to orchestrate Atlanta’s defense.

New GM Terry Fontenot and Smith began their tenure by landing arguably the best player in the draft, regardless of position, in TE Kyle Pitts. He could be in a great spot to make an immediate impact after the Falcons traded away franchise star Julio Jones this off-season. The fact that the Falcons passed on drafting one of the big-five quarterbacks in this year’s draft was also an indication that Fontenot and Smith aren’t interested in going to a full-blown rebuild to start this season. Matt Ryan will still be leading the offense for at least this season, and he won’t be interested in tanking to help bring in his successor next off-season. The Falcons are also due for a little better luck this season after they finished a miserable 2-8 in one-score contests last season to land the fourth overall pick in the draft.

Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total

Atlanta has finished under their season win total in three consecutive seasons under the previous regime, and the schedule-makers did it no favors this season. The Falcons are the only team in the league who will host just seven home games this season even with the league switching to a 17-game format. They lost one of their eight home games to a neutral-site contest against the Jets in London, which is also a bit of a disadvantage to play overseas.

The Falcons are heading into the first season without Jones, whom the Falcons traded in June for salary cap relief. They couldn’t add too many bodies to their roster this off-season because of their salary cap predicament, which means they still have one of the thinnest rosters in the league outside of some of their big names on offense. Atlanta actually had some of the best injury luck last season as it finished with the third-fewest adjusted games lost (per Football Outsiders), which speaks to just how bad its roster was last season and how bad it still is since they couldn’t bring in many new faces.

The Falcons figure to have one of the league’s worst defenses once again this season after they allowed the fourth-most yards per game (398.4), including the most passing yards per game (293.6). Atlanta will be breaking in a brand-new safety unit this season, and it needs young CBs A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, and Kendall Sheffield to take major steps forward or they’ll be a bottom-feeder unit.

Notable Player Props

Kyle Pitts: receiving yards (875.5), receiving TDs (7.5), OROY (+800)

Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (725), receiving TDs (7)

  • Best-Case Scenario: Rookie TEs have struggled to transition to the league but Pitts continues to prove he’s a unicorn at the position. He bucked the trends before he even played an NFL snap after the Falcons made him the highest-drafted tight end in the post-merger era, and he excels from the jump with Julio Jones out of the mix.

  • Worst-Case-Scenario: The post-merger NFL has produced just three rookie TEs who cleared 800+ receiving yards in a season, and Jeremy Shockey remains the only player in that group to do it in the last 34 seasons. Pitts is yet another rookie TE who struggles to adjust to the NFL game in his first season.

Matt Ryan: passing yards (4500.5), MVP (+5000), OPOY (+6600)

Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4385)

  • Best-Case Scenario: Kyle Pitts proves to be a difference-maker right out of the gates to offset the loss of Julio Jones, and Atlanta’s defense remains one of the league’s worst to keep Ryan among the league leaders in passing attempts.
  • Worst-Case-Scenario: New HC and play-caller Arthur Smith brings a more balanced offensive attack to Atlanta. Ryan also shows his age (36) a little more in 2021 without his go-to receiver for the first time in a decade.

Calvin Ridley: most receiving yards (+1000), OPOY (+2000)

Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (1325)

  • Best-Case Scenario: Ridley repeats as the air yards champion in 2021 and he vies for the league lead in target share with Julio Jones completely out of the mix for the first time in his fourth season.
  • Worst-Case-Scenario: The Falcons commit to their running game a bit more than they have in recent seasons while Kyle Pitts is an instant star and sucks targets away from Ridley.

Brolley’s Bets

Best Bets

Atlanta Falcons under 7.5 wins (+110, FanDuel). Risk one unit to win 1.1 units — The Falcons are coming off a four-win campaign and their roster may have gotten worse because of their awful salary cap situation, which forced them to move on from franchise star Julio Jones. The Falcons did get a coaching upgrade with Arthur Smith and Dean Pees taking over the offense and defense, respectively, but I do worry a bit about a young first-time head coach taking over one of the league’s worst rosters. The NFL schedule-makers also did them no favors since they’re the only team in the league who will host just seven home games even with the league switching to a 17-game format. They lost one of their home games to a neutral-site contest against the Jets in London, and traveling overseas and burning an early bye is negative in its own right. The Falcons are trying to navigate a reboot instead of a rebuild with an aging QB, but it wouldn’t be shocking if their new front office switches gears and goes into rebuild mode if they’re heading down the wrong path once again this season.

Matt Ryan under 4600.5 passing yards (-130, Bet365). Risk one unit to win .77 units — Ryan will need to average nearly 271 passing yards per game to go over this total, which could be a tough task with Julio Jones no longer in the mix. Ryan has been demonstrably worse without Julio since the star WR came into the league, averaging 7.0 YPA and 260.1 passing yards per game in 25 games without Jones. The bigger concern could be a dip in passing volume with Arthur Smith taking over as the head coach and play-caller. Ryan has topped 600+ passing attempts in three straight seasons and in seven of his last nine years while Smith’s Titans offenses — with Derrick Henry at RB — averaged 466.5 passes per season the last two years.

Matt Ryan to win the 2021 MVP (+10000, DraftKings, posted Feb. 16). Risk .5 unit to win 50 units — This bet runs contrary to my previous two bets, but this MVP wager had more to do with the massive odds I was getting on Ryan back in mid-February. The wager has lost some steam in early June after the Falcons traded Julio Jones — Ryan is still sitting at +5000 odds to win the award. Ryan already has an MVP trophy in his recent past when he threw for 4944 yards and 38 TDs while averaging a ridiculous 9.3 YPA in 2016. I’m intrigued to see what Arthur Smith can do with Ryan after he salvaged Tannehill from the trash heap two seasons ago in Tennessee. Smith’s fresh perspective could be just what Ryan needs as he heads into his age-36 season.

Kyle Pitts under 875.5 receiving yards (-110, FOXBet, May 18). Risk one unit to win .91 units — I placed this bet a few weeks before the Julio Jones trade, and I’m certainly way more nervous about it now. I’m extremely excited to see Pitts as a rookie this season, but his receiving yards total is a bit inflated. It’s tough for any tight end to get to 800+ receiving yards as we saw last season. Travis Kelce and Darren Waller were the only players at the position to post 725+ receiving yards in 2020, so Pitts is facing lofty expectations with this line.



Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 64.3% clip last season and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.