It’s that time of year Ladies and Gentlemen of The Bird Cage, a competition that has become a yearly favorite in our realm known as the 3rd Annual Bird Cage Atlanta Falcons Season Prediction Competition. Sure, the name is insanely too long, but trying to predict the wins and losses for the season has proved to be a blast in this friendly little competition.
Make sure to give your own prediction. You can post it anywhere on this blog or a future blog as long as it gets in Saturday, September 10th @ 11:59 pm.
1) 9/11 – Falcons @ Bears – Win
How in the world can you use the term “need-to-win” on the opening game of a 16 game schedule? Can’t say the Falcons really have to have this game, but with their next four games and if the Birds really want to be considered contenders, they should win this game. The Bears reached the NFC Championship Game and surely gave the Packers a better game than the Falcons. The Bears have arguably one of the best defenses in the NFL, but their offense doesn’t strike fear into many opponents, even with the addition of Roy Williams. This will be a major fight and the Birds better show up ready to play or they could be coming home 0-1.
2) 9/18 – Falcons vs. Eagles – Loss
Disregarding the entire circus that will follow this game with the return of Michael Vick to have the first ever match-up with the QB that replaced him Matt Ryan, this game has hinged on coaching the last 3 years. The Eagles are the new Redskins when it comes to trying to buy a Super Bowl and they do seem to be pretty loaded, but superstar teams never seem to work out in the long run. All that being said, the Falcons coaching staff have been absolutely owned by the Eagles coaching staff the last three years. Maybe the Falcons don’t match up well with the Eagles or maybe they just chose the Eagles to have one of their worst games of the season the last two years, but the two previous games have been blowouts. Would love to slot a win here, but this will have to be a case of seeing before believing, and it has very little to do with Vick and everything to do with the Falcons coaches.
3) 9/25 – Falcons @ Bucs – Win
The Bucs are everyone’s media darlings this year due to their youth, good drafts the last few years, and their surprisingly good season last year. They absolutely have gotten some good draft picks in and are very talented, but still not buying the hype just yet. Even though they went 10-6 last year, they only beat one team with a winning record and that was the Saints in the last game of the season. Not discounting how difficult this game will be, but the Falcons have proven their track record over the last three years. The Bucs have not, at least yet. A loss here wouldn’t be devastating, but if it makes the Birds 1-2 or, heaven forbid, 0-3, it may be a very long season and quickly put the Falcons behind the eight ball.
4) 10/2 – Falcons @ Seahawks – Win
Many are predicting a trap game here and the Falcons will be in a tough bind with the long road trip after coming back from Tampa Bay, but if the Birds want to reach any of their preseason goals, they have to win games like this. The Seahawks had an amazing playoff win against the Saints, but are still a work in progress with several questions at quarterback and running back. Who knows if Pete Carroll can sustain his first year success, but the Falcons are way ahead of the Seahawks in terms of talent, cohesion, and consistency. The Falcons have done a magnificent job of winning the jobs they should win and that streak continues in Seattle.
5) 10/9 – Falcons vs. Packers – Loss
Packers. Falcons. Georgia Dome. Nightmare. One of the worst playoff blowouts in NFL history is the freshest memory in Falcons fans brains. A magical season came crashing to the ground in basically a half of football. It was a complete failure on all levels: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, preparation, and anything else associated with the Falcons that night. All that being said, the Falcons seemingly have addressed their flaws in terms of needing to be more explosive and more aggressive in terms of coaching (at least in what they’ve said anyway). The word revenge is ridiculous because the Packers now have Super Bowl rings. Similar to last year, the Falcons drop this one and fly completely under the radar to the playoffs. Like the Eagles game, definitely want to slot a win here, but the “Debacle in the Dome” is seared too deep. They’ll at least have a better defensive showing, right?
6) 10/16 – Falcons vs. Panthers – Win
The Cam Newton era begins and they have made some serious splashes in free agency, but they have a little ways to go before they can think about reaching the Falcons and Saints. The team that won only 1 game last year may have a year like the Bucs, but don’t count on it unless Newton turns out to be similar to Matt Ryan or Josh Freeman. They have a potent backfield, two good tight ends, and a superb linebacker corps, but the Falcons must take care of business against a team in rebuilding mode. This team goes as Newton goes and a guy who said he wants to be known as an “entertainer and icon” and oozes of arrogance seems to be in for some humble pie.
7) 10/23 – Falcons @ Lions – Win
Are the Lions finally for real? They have had some of the best drafts the last few years and appear poised for a year ready to challenge for a playoff spot. They have stockpiled young talent and also added plenty of legit free agents to complement the roster. Sound familiar? This game has trap written all over it, but the Falcons will find a way to win this one as well as others. The Lions are getting very close, but until they prove they can get over the hump with a challenging schedule, the Falcons will win this one.
8.) 11/6 – Falcons @ Colts – Loss
The Birds will be coming off a bye and, depending on Peyton Manning’s injury status, they very well could be considered to win this game. As just mentioned, that key is Peyton Manning and you can’t count him out for very long. The Birds will give a tough fight in this one, but 5 road games in the first half of the season, even with the bye, finally catches up to them. Also could get peaking ahead to the hated Saints coming to town the next week.
9) 11/23 – Falcons vs. Saints – Win
Forget about Eagles-Cowboys or Patriots-Jets, the Falcons-Saints rivalry has been reborn as one of the best and most competitive series in the NFL. Monday Night Football had its highest rating of the season between the Falcons and Saints in the Georgia Dome. The two split the series last year, both poaching one on the road. This time the split stays at home. Another heated game has the Falcons winning this one at home.
10) 11/20 – Falcons vs. Titans – Win
The Titans are in a little bit of rebuilding mode themselves, particularly at quarterback. Even with one of the best running backs in the game, the Titans still have a ways to go to prove they are good enough offensively to keep up with some of the leagues better teams. It may turn out to be closer than expected if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy, but the Falcons continue winning the games they’re supposed to, especially at home.
11) 11/27 – Falcons vs. Vikings – Win
Similar to the Titans game, the Vikings have some talent and may try to get something going with Donovan McNabb at quarterback. They still have the games best running back in Adrian Peterson, but a team who lost their quarterback, best wide receiver, starting defensive end, and countless other players seems to be a little ways yet to getting back on top. This one will be very interesting to see former wide receiver Michael Jenkins and QB coach Bill Musgrave in purple and gold and former Viking Ray Edwards in red and black. Birds take care of business against Vikes.
12) 12/4 – Falcons @ Texans – Loss
Will this finally be the year the Texans make the jump to the playoffs after knocking on the door the last few seasons? They appear to have finally built a solid offense and defense led by Matt Schaub. Gary Kubiak know he’ll be fighting for his job the entire season where fans are demanding a playoff spot. After the comfy confines of home, the Birds drop one to a team with Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and a likely heavily improved defense led by Wade Phillips, who has a proven track record as a DC. The Falcons come up just short.
13) 12/11 – Falcons @ Panthers – Win
Who knows where the Panthers will be this time around in Charlotte. They may be lighting it up like the Bucs did last year or they may be closer to their 2010 season. Same as before, the Panthers may be on their way up, but the Falcons must get this game if they want to be taken serious for the playoffs.
14) 12/15 – Falcons vs. Jaguars – Win
The Falcons get the short end of the deal as they have to return home from Charlotte and play a mere 3 days later against the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football. The good news is that they take the field @ home in the Georgia Dome. The Jaguars are extremely inconsistent and it appears that Jack Del Rio’s job may at last be on the line if they don’t find a way to make the playoffs. The Jags spent a lot in free agency and brought in some quality players, but it won’t be enough to beat the Falcons at home in a short week where they have to travel. If this games in Jacksonville, it likely would be a different pick.
15) 12/26 – Falcons @ Saints – Loss
Will the Falcons need this one to secure a playoff berth or jump ahead for the NFC South Title? The only thing that is certain is that it will be yet another hard fought and extremely entertaining game and that’s why Monday Night Football (and likely the NFL as well) scheduled this as their last game of the year for the second year in a row. The Falcons will put up a good fight, but Sean Payton will have the Saints in high form at home after a possible slow start. The season split stays intact again and it may decide the NFC Title, if that’s true the Saints have to be favored here at home.
16) 1/6 – Falcons vs. Bucs – Win
Who knows where everything will shake out in the brutal NFC South, but the Falcons get a home game on the very last weekend of the year for the second year in a row. If a wild cards at stake, than the Falcons have to be favored here. The Bucs fail to meet their extremely high expectations and the Falcons get in the playoffs likely as a wild card team due to the Saints extremely favorable and easier schedule.
Final Analysis – The Falcons take a small step back, but could be in a better position, at least if you believe in the recent success of wild card teams. The Falcons could just as easily go 13-3 again this year, but fans can’t fully believe it until they see it after the “Debacle in the Dome” and fairly lackluster preaseason. The Birds got most the breaks last year (Saints missed field goal in OT, Roddy’s strip against 49ers) and its hard to believe they’ll get them again this year. If they truly are contenders for the Lombardi Trophy, we’ll have a great idea on January 7th, 2012.
-Time to make your 2011 Atlanta Falcons Season Predictions
-All submissions due by Saturday, September 10th @ 11:59 PM.