He's making a bunch of moves this year where I still think we make the playoffs; but don't ask me how??
There's very little doubt about the Falcons making the playoffs. I don't mean that as if it's a guarantee, but I think we all agree that even if you were to consider a resurgent Saints as part of the group, the Falcons are one of the 5 best teams in the NFC.
If they get 64 games or very close to it from Ryan, Gonzo, White, and Julio, it's going to be very hard to see this team finish below 10-6 and out of the wildcard mix. Now the more games those guys miss will push the team back closer to mediocrity.
But I think the real concern is how far will the Falcons go should they make the playoffs?
Law of averages says that when your 4 best players all have career-defining seasons, that's probably not going to happen again. So the passing game will likely take a step back this year. Clabo's presence is probably not going to change that and would have fairly little impact anyway. The big question is will the running game pick up slack. I've expressed doubts about whether a running game led by Steven Jackson can be a significant improvement over last year's, but for now I'll choose to be optimistic about it just because I like SJax so much.
Then it becomes what improvements will the defense make. And I think based on TD's moves, people have legit cause for concern about whether the defense will be improved at all from a year ago. That's not meant to be a knock on TD, because I don't think you can realistically expect a huge improvement. Typically when teams make huge leap forwards on defense is because they have a new DC and/or really hit a homerun in the draft. None are likely options for us. It's going to be a long-term project for us if we think this defense is ever going to be a Top 10 group.
But again, I don't think the D will be so bad that it will preclude the Falcons from making the playoffs altogether (see 2008 Broncos or 2012 Saints). It all just sorta boils down to the health of the team. Now law of averages says that the Falcons lucky ability to avoid the injury bug runs out at some point, which could easily be this year, so we'll see. But I've now been saying that for at least 2 years straight, so...