AP NEWS

Atlanta Falcons Preview Capsule

September 3, 2016 GMT

ATLANTA FALCONS (8-8)

New faces: C Alex Mack, WR Mohamed Sanu, DE Dwight Freeney, QB Matt Schaub, TE Austin Hooper, S Keanu Neal, LB Courtney Upshaw, DE Derrick Shelby, LB De’Vondre Campbell, LB Deion Jones.

Key losses: LB Justin Durant, WR Roddy White, WR Devin Hester, S William Moore, NT Paul Soliai, WR Leonard Hankerson.

Strengths: Offense is led by strong tandem of playmakers in WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman, who combined for 3,505 total yards in 2015. Freeman was dual threat with 73 catches and 1,056 yards rushing. Jones shared NFL lead with 136 catches and led league with 1,871 yards receiving.

Weaknesses: Falcons were last in league with only 19 sacks in 2015 and have ranked no higher than 28th since 2012. Vic Beasley had only four sacks last year as rookie and didn’t show bigger push in preseason. Depth on defense could be concern early as cornerback Jalen Collins serves four-game suspension (violating performance enhancers policy) and Neal misses at least two games after arthroscopic knee surgery. Neal’s backup, Kemal Ishmael, missed last three preseason games with shoulder injury.

Fantasy Players To Watch: Jones, Freeman, Sanu, QB Matt Ryan, RB Tevin Coleman, PK Matt Bryant, TE Jacob Tamme.

Expectations: If Ryan can rebound from subpar 2015, improved offensive line could make offense more productive. Defense improved in Quinn’s first season. Better pass rush is needed for similar move up. That also could bring winning record — and return to playoff contention.

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