It’s the beginning of the NFL regular season and everyone is — well, was until last night (sorry, New York Giants fans) — undefeated. The “wait till next year” chants and grumblings can now cease, and the games will begin to take meaning.
The Atlanta Falcons are one of those teams with high expectations from the fans, but with quite a bit lower predictions from some of the “experts” around the league.
Now that preseason play has finished, and we have a pretty good picture of the Falcons depth chart, it’s time to go down the schedule game by game, and make predictions for the season.
Columns like this are always fun and generally either laughable or, at times, amazing to look at when the season has ended.
WEEK 1 – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at Arrowhead Stadium: Falcons by 3
The Chiefs are a hard team to figure. A lot of mediocre talent, and a quarterback who can throw with the best of them on a good day. Arrowhead is a tough venue to win at for the visiting team, but the Falcons pull out a close one.
WEEK 2 – DENVER BRONCOS at Home: Falcons by 7
The Broncos come in with Peyton Manning and a good defense, but not much else. The Falcons traditionally don’t play well on Monday Night Football, but this game may not even be as close as the seven points I’m predicting. Atlanta has too much talent and will overwhelm the Broncos.
WEEK 3 – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS at Qualcomm Stadium: Chargers by 3.5
My gut is telling me to go with the Falcons on this one due to San Diego’s traditional slow season starts. But Atlanta will have played two physical games, and will be coming off a short week after a Monday night game. If you add in the trip to the west coast, advantage swings to the Chargers.
WEEK 4 – CAROLINA PANTHERS at Home: Falcons by 10
The Falcons love to beat down the Panthers in the Georgia Dome, and this year will be no exception. Cam Newton is good, but he can’t do it all for the Panthers. Look for Roddy White and Julio Jones to run the Carolina defensive backs out of town.
WEEK 5 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS at FedEx Field: Redskins by 1
Washington is a good team, and getting better. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is exactly the kind of QB that gives Atlanta’s defenses fits. The Atlanta offense will keep it close, but a late field goal may be the difference in this game.
WEEK 6 – OAKLAND RAIDERS at Home: Raiders by 3
I just don’t know if the Falcons defense is going to be able to keep up with all the speed the Raiders have at the skill positions, and they will be even faster playing in the Georgia Dome. This will cap the Falcons only consecutive loss streak of the season.
WEEK 7 – BYE WEEK
WEEK 8 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at Lincoln Financial Field: Falcons by 1
Atlanta hasn’t won a game at Philadelphia since Matt Ryan was knee-high to a leprechaun, but that streak will end this year. In a dramatic finish, Ryan will drive the Falcons downfield in the last minute of the game, capped off by a Matt Bryant game-winning field goal.
WEEK 9 – DALLAS COWBOYS at Home: Falcons by 10
Atlanta will be riding high after their dramatic victory on the road in Philadelphia, and will take that momentum with them against the Cowboys. Rob Ryan‘s defense won’t have an answer for the dual threat of the Falcons running game and speedy receivers.
WEEK 10 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at Mercedes-Benz Superdome: Falcons by 2
Many of the Falcons have this game circled on their calendar after the thrashing that Atlanta took at the hands of Drew Brees in the Superdome last season. It’s never an easy win in New Orleans, but the Falcons will pull out a last minute victory again.
WEEK 11 – ARIZONA CARDINALS at Home: Falcons by 14
Arizona is just not good, and by week 11, they may be even worse. This will be the biggest blowout win of the Falcons season. It won’t even be close. This may be the game that gets Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt fired.
WEEK 12 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at Raymond James Stadium: Falcons by 9
Atlanta will carry the momentum of three big wins down to Tampa and make short work of the Buccaneers. Watch for the Falcons defense to really go after Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman and give him a nightmarish day.
WEEK 13 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at Home: Falcons by 14
It’s going to be a short week with this being a Thursday night game on the NFL Network, and the Saints will come into Atlanta looking unprepared. This will be payback in many respects and will be the first time in years the Falcons just rumble over the Saints.
WEEK 14 – CAROLINA PANTHERS at Bank of America Stadium: Panthers by 6
The thing about winning streaks is, they all eventually come to an end. After winning six straight games following the bye week, Atlanta will go into Carolina and lay the proverbial egg. The Panthers are bound to upset a team or two this season, and I just see this as one of those times.
WEEK 15 – NEW YORK GIANTS – at Home: Falcons by 1
Oh you don’t think the Falcons will forget the beat down they took at the hands of the Giants in last year’s playoff game, do you? No, this will be an old fashioned, slobber-knocking slugfest, that goes to the last man standing. Watch the Falcons offensive line to take this game personally.
WEEK 16 – DETROIT LIONS – at Ford Field: Falcons by 4
This may end up being one of the highest scoring games of the entire NFL season. The Falcons won’t have much of an answer for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but the Lions will have even less of an answer for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
WEEK 17 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at Home: Buccaneers by 7
This game won’t even matter. The Falcons will have wrapped up the NFC South with the victory over Detroit, and will rest most of their starters for this game. Tampa will probably bring themselves to 8-8 with this win.
So, the tally on the Falcons final regular season record: 11-5, winning the NFC South and catching a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Have a different opinion or even agree with me by some miracle? Rant at me below!