Here's a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Atlanta Falcons, who finished the season 10-6. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.
Westgate odds to win the Super Bowl LIII: 18-1
Should contend, but there are question marks: The Falcons and owner Arthur Blank would love nothing more than to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium. In order to make that a reality, the Falcons have to rediscover the offensive success they enjoyed during their 2016 Super Bowl run, when they averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game. The missing element from that team is offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now the head of the San Francisco 49ers. New coordinator Steve Sarkisian wasn't able to uphold the standard in his first season, but coach Dan Quinn expressed full confidence in Sarkisian heading into the 2018 season.
The Falcons have a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, a game-changing receiver in Julio Jones, and a potent, 1-2 running back combo in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, provided they remain together. But the Falcons need to upgrade the interior of the offensive line next to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, and could use another serious deep threat to pair with Jones. Last season's 11.7 points per game slide proved to be detrimental.
The Falcons have all the elements of a top-tier defense, as Quinn has assembled one of the fastest units around. But to actually win a Super Bowl, they need to continue to upgrade the defensive line so pressure on opposing quarterbacks, particularly up the middle, is consistent. Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley Jr., and Takk McKinley are young stars who could make the Falcons a feared group for years to come. But the Falcons should always be on the hunt for more playmakers, particularly in the secondary.
And the Falcons won't enjoy as much success as they desire without making the necessary improvements on special teams. The first matter of business is re-signing reliable kicker Matt Bryant, who turns 43 in May.