2023 NFL Season Preview: Atlanta Falcons and Desmond Ridder. Atlanta should be favored in most games against non-contenders.

The Atlanta Falcons and their fans have to be feeling some optimism as they prepare for the upcoming season. The Falcons, as part of our 2023 NFL Season Preview, is a team that looks like they have some upside. Desmond Ridder is their starting quarterback and the Falcons have to be hoping that he has some substance following his four-game stint last season.

Atlanta Falcons: Ridder is QB1

Ridder is the top quarterback in Atlanta’s depth chart with ESPN. He is ahead of Taylor Heinecke, who is a perfectly credible starter in his own right. But sticking to Ridder, his stats from last season are worth taking a look at.

Ridder saw no action in the NFL until December. Since he only appeared in four games, his statistical averages do not rank among the quarterbacks who appeared regularly. When it comes to the stats that are acquired over a short span of games, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. However, Atlanta still has to like what they saw. Owner Arthur Blank likes what he has seen so far.

Ridder had a 63.5% pass completion rate. His passer rating was 86.4 and his QBR was 49.8. He didn’t connect for many touchdowns. However, he protected the ball well. He went 2-0 for TDs to interceptions. The Falcons scored a little in the games he played in with 77 points on offense in the four games combined. That averages out to 19.25 points per game for the team for games he played in. There’s nothing amazing about Ridder — but he appears to be better than a lot of other established quarterbacks.

Ridder is a Qualified Starting Quarterback

As said, most stat providers aren’t going to include his averages in sorted searches because they don’t qualify based on how few games he played. But let’s take a look at where his averages would fall if they did qualify.

A 63.5% pass completion percentage would make him a Top-32 quarterback. “32” isn’t an arbitrary number: that’s how many NFL teams there are in the league. A QBR of 49.8 would place him 24th in the league against the quarterbacks that had regular playing time. His passer rating of 86.4 would have him at 28th in the league. From some important points of view, Ridder is a young quarterback that a team searching for a QB would want to see grow. Starting him is not a charity project: he really could be viewed as a peripheral QB1.

Ridder appears to be a lot better than the outer fluff of the NFL. That wasn’t something we knew a year ago with any kind of certainty. He was, after all, a third-round pick. Accordingly, you have to like Atlanta’s chances in games against non-contenders. For instance, in Week 1 the Falcons are -3.0 favorites against the Carolina Panthers (bet365; -110). Atlanta hosts the game and Carolina’s QB will be an NFL debutant in Bryce Young, the top pick from the 2023 NFL Draft.

There could be all kinds of rookie problems with Young. The last QB that went No. 1 was Trevor Lawrence. He’s good now but his early-career games were not impressive. Ridder shook out the nerves last season and that helps Atlanta this season.

Betting recommendations for Atlanta Falcons and Desmond Ridder

Our recommendation is to back Atlanta in Week 1. Also, take the OVER on Ridder’s passing total for the whole season with bet365. He is set at 2600.5 and the odds on the OVER are +100 (EVEN odds).

Further reading: Joe Burrow injury and betting markets

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