Find out how the NFL Futures Odds have changed for Atlanta Falcons, as their punishment was made known on Monday for piping in fake crowd noise at the Georgia Dome over the past two seasons.
Slap On Wrist?
The NFL announced that Atlanta has been fined $350,000 and will lose a fifth-round 2016 draft pick for the violation. If Atlanta has multiple picks in that round next year then it loses the highest of them. Also, team president Rich McKay was suspended from the league's competition committee through at least June 30 because he failed to ensure that the team complied with league rules. It wasn't McKay who was responsible for the added noise -- it was Roddy White, the team's former director of marketing and not the receiver of the same name. In fact, McKay reportedly didn't know anything about it. All in all, the Falcons should feel rather fortunate with this punishment. It's pretty light considering. If the Patriots did something like that the league probably would have taken a first-round pick and sent Bill Belichick to Siberia. Owner Arthur Blank said he wouldn't appeal.
It sure doesn't seem like the additional noise helped. In finishing 4-12 two seasons ago the Falcons were 3-5 at home. Last year the Falcons were just 3-4 at the Georgia Dome -- one home game was in London. They hosted Carolina in Week 17 with the NFC South title on the line but Atlanta was crushed 34-3, turning the ball over three times and not forcing a Panthers' turnover.
That would be the final game for head coach Mike Smith, who was fired following a 6-10 mark. Atlanta was the final team to hire a head coach this offseason as the team was waiting on Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn until the Seahawks were out of the playoffs. Blank said at the press conference that Quinn would have final say over the 53-man roster. That can't sit too well with GM Thomas Dimitroff, although he's fortunate to still have that job.
The Falcons haven't made any huge moves in free agency. The offense should be just fine with quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, one of the best in football, so keep that in mind while making your NFL picks. The main departures on that side of the ball were receiver Harry Douglas and running backs Jacquizz Rodgers and Steven Jackson. The latter was a total bust in his two years in Atlanta. Jackson couldn't stay healthy and wasn't very good even when he was on the field. I'm curious if Atlanta will draft a running back somewhat high as right now the team's starter is Devonta Freeman. I'm not sure Freeman is a featured back type. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie and caught 30 passes for 225 yards. The team also has Antone Smith.
Atlanta picks No. 8 overall in the first round and most mock drafts have the Falcons taking a defensive player. ESPN's Todd McShay just released his newest one and has the Falcons grabbing Missouri defensive end Shane Ray at No. 8.
The Falcons desperately need help on defense -- hence the Quinn hiring. The team finished dead last in total defense in 2014, allowing 398.3 yards per game. The Falcons were 27th in points allowed (26.1 per game) and 30th with only 22 sacks. A pass rusher is priority No. 1, but they also have major needs at inside linebacker, free safety and cornerback. Atlanta was hoping to sign safety Darian Stewart, but he actually agreed to a deal with the Broncos while visiting the Falcons. The Falcons also targeted Kansas City's Ron Parker but wouldn't meet his price and he re-signed with the Chiefs. The biggest-name defenders the team signed were linebackers Brooks Reed (Texans) and Justin Durant (Cowboys). Durant will take the spot of Sean Weatherspoon, who signed with Arizona. Reed is a pretty good run defender and plays on the outside.
Atlanta is +4500 on NFL odds to win Super Bowl 50. It could win the NFC South, which is the worst division in football. Also as a positive, the Falcons have the NFL's easiest schedule as measured by their opponents' combined record from last season. Obviously six games against fellow South teams helped there.