By Chad Quates @chadquates on April 26, 2014
The Atlanta Falcons were a complete mess in 2013. Due to a potent combination of injuries, poor play and bad luck, the Falcons finished at a woeful 4-12 after going 13-3 the previous season and falling just short of the Super Bowl. The new season brings new hope, but also a difficult schedule.
Here is a look at the Falcons 2014 schedule, complete with predictions for each game.
The Falcons open the season against their primary NFC South rival at home. Division games are critical, especially at home, so a win here would be helpful for Atlanta. However, the New Orleans Saints have had the Falcons' number recently, and are simply the better team.
The Falcons travel to Cincinnati for an out of conference matchup. The Cincinnati Bengals are very strong at home and will prevail in a tight game, dropping the Falcons to 0-2 on the season.
The Falcons will be desperate for a win in Week 3, and will need to take advantage of the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a Thursday night to get one. Tampa Bay will be an improved team this season, but will not be able to handle the Falcons at home in prime time.
The Falcons hit the road to face the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota still has Adrian Peterson, but little else, and Atlanta should be able to hold on for their first win away from the Georgia Dome on the young season.
The New York Giants are still a reasonably talented group and should play well in this one at home. This will be the second consecutive road game for the Falcons, who will lose a tight one in New York to fall back under .500 for the season.
The Falcons return home to face a quality Chicago team. While the Chicago Bears are always tough, the Falcons will win a close game to even their record at 3-3.
The Baltimore Ravens always seem to be in the mix, and usually play well at home. A difficult road test for the Falcons will result in a pretty convincing loss.
The Falcons and Detroit Lions will hook up in the annual NFL London event. Detroit is looking to bounce back from a problematic 2013, and are still talented on both sides of the ball. However, Atlanta will win it with a late field goal.
The Falcons travel to Tampa Bay after the bye week and will presumably have an advantage over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to the rest. However, Tampa Bay is a young team that should improve as the season progresses, and will likely take this one at home.
The Falcons stay on the road in the division to face the defending NFC South champions. While the Carolina Panthers will not repeat last season’s 12-4 mark, they are still a solid team and superior to the Falcons, particularly at home.
The Cleveland Browns come to town to face Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. After two consecutive weeks on the road in the division, this matchup should be a nice reprieve for the Falcons. Although the Browns are improving, the Falcons will secure a much-needed victory.
The Falcons face a very good Arizona Cardinals squad this week, and while Arizona is probably the better team on paper, Atlanta will use their home-field advantage to get the win and keep their playoff hopes alive.
The schedule makers were not particularly kind sending the Falcons to Green Bay in early December, but such is life. Both teams will need the win, but the Green Bay Packers are the better team and will be at home in the likely harsh elements.
The Pittsburgh Steelers visit Atlanta this week in a game that the Falcons will need more than Pittsburgh. In a high scoring affair, the Falcons win a tight one to stay on the fringes of the playoff race.
The Falcons visit New Orleans this week, where their faint playoff chances will disappear. The New Orleans Saints will lock up the NFC South with the victory, as the Falcons continue their struggles away from home.
The Falcons will be playing for pride in the final week of the regular season, but the Carolina Panthers will need a victory to qualify for the playoffs. Atlanta gets the pleasure of ending Carolina’s season, finishing at 8-8 for a four-game improvement over 2013.
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