There’s a crisp in the air (well, not really here in Georgia), college football’s already started, tailgates are getting planned, and the new Atlanta Falcons season is right around the corner. So of course that means its time to put your prediction hats on and guess the Falcons wins and losses for the year. Let’s get to it….
It’s going to be an emotional game for Tony Gonzalez and his return home to Kansas City, where he spent — years. It’s also one of the more intriguing matchups on opening weekend. GM Thomas Dimitroff is also fielding his Falcons against his mentor in New England in GM Scott Pioli. The Chiefs are on the way up, but the Falcons got to get this one and start the year off right, unlike the last two years suffering opening day losses to the Steelers and Bears. Its close , but the Birds get by and get the W.
One of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game returns to the NFL in this exciting Monday Night Football contest. This one will be one of Mike Nolan’s toughest tests as new Falcons defensive coordinator. Peyton Manning will surely get his yards and TDs, but the Falcons first home game combined with the Birds offense vs. the Broncos defense will see them notch their second win.
The Falcons make the long trip to San Diego and may be reeling some after two hard fought games. Norv Turner’s job is on the line this year and the Chargers have to return to the playoffs after a few less-than-stellar years of underachieving. Phillip Rivers has some more offensive weapons to work with and their defense finds a way to bottle up the Falcons offense enough to hand the Falcons their first loss.
Many are picking thd Panthers as the “bust out” team of 2012 after Cam Newton got rookie of the year while leading his team to a 6-10 record all the while throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. There’s no denying that this will be a tough game, but the Birds defense held Newton in check under Brian Van Gorder, so Nolan should be able to do it. Newton’s probably more concerned with charging thousands of dollars for his autograph and wearing his trademark towels in his head anyways.
Robert Griffin III may end up having an excellent year and being a great quarterback, but that has nothing to do with his complete lack of surrounding offensive arsenal. The Skins unbelievable trade to get Griffin III makes the Falcons trade for Julio look like tiddlywinks. It’s an away game and it does come after a pretty rough stretch, but the Falcons defense should hold up against an offense with limited talent and a rookie QB. The offense should get the job done against a D that is improving, but is hardly the Ravens just yet.
This game will likely be closer than some think. The Raiders just hired Reggie McKenzie as their GM, longtime #2 from the Packers, and have a lot of young talent on offense. Carson Palmer will be out to prove something in his waning years as a pro and this will be a hungry team after just missing out on the playoffs last year. Their offense may be OK, but their defense doesn’t frighten anyone, at least yet. The Birds better not be peaking ahead to a trip to Philly or this has trap game written all over it
The Falcons finally beat the Eagles under Mike Smith, after failing the previous 3 years, in a wild shootout that saw the Falcons former QB get injured in the second half. It was a game that was supposed to propel the Falcons to a great year after beating a seemingly elite opponent. The “Dream Team” Eagles collapsed and the FAlcons went on to massively underachieve. The Falcons certainly should and can win this game, but Andy Reid seems to have Smith’s number (3-1 vs. Smith) and they will look to rebound after a hugely disappointing year that could see Reid on the hotseat. It may be another shootout, but the Falcons come up short this time on the road.
Speaking about underachieving, the Cowboys have done that in style the last few years. The ‘boys from Dallas seem to be a mess of late, with Dez Bryant beating up his own mother and essentially all of their cornerbacks either holding out or being injured. Everyone and their brother love to criticize Matt Ryan all the while giving Tony Romo a pass because he won “one” playoff game, but he’s also lost 3 playoff games, and some pretty bad ones to boot. This will be another amped game on Sunday Night Football (can’t wait for Chris Collinsworth’s voice can you?), but the Birds take care of business in all three phases of the game. The defense comes up big vs. Romo and the offense plays lights out against a questionable ‘Boys defense.
The Falcons can talk all they want about being close breaking loose and going on a run, but until they beat the Saints on a consistent basis (an extremely poor record under Smith), all that talk is for nothing. The Saints will still be good even without some of their key players leaving via free agency and their head coach being found guilty of condoning, running, and lying about an illegal, immoral, injurious, and unethical bounty scheme. Nolan will surely have his defense playing better against Brees and Co. (how can it be worse than Van Gorder’s last outing), but the Saints will pull through in the end. Question is, will it be a fair and honest win? It’s tempting to pencil this in as a win, but seeing is believing in the Mike Smith Era.
Some may think this is a potential trap game, being sandwiched in between a home and away series with the hated Saints and an away game with the Bucs, but the Falcons will be coming off a tough loss to their bitter rivals and will take care of business. The Cardinals are at somewhat of a crossroads. The memory of their Super Bowl run has definitely faded, and coach Whisenhunt might be sitting on a warm-to-hot seat after having subpar seasons since Kurt Warner left. The Cardinals may not have the worst QB situation in the NFL, but it’s got to be pretty close. This one’s likely not very close.
The Bucs are definitely in rebuilding mode, but they shouldn’t suffer from talent both on offense and defense. They went out and signed Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson, and Dallas Clark in free agency and drafted both Alabama safety Mark Barron along with running back Doug Martin. The Bucs have really drafted well the last few years and if they can put it all together, they should be dangerous. But you have to be skeptical about the head coach coming straight from the college ranks. They have the talent and they appear to be on the upswing, but they won’t get it done this year against the Falcons.
This Thursday Night Football matchup will be the 4th NFL game the Falcons play in an 18 day time span, with two of them being on the road and two of them being at home. The Falcons must take care of this one after dropping the first game on the road to the Saints. If they want to have any hope at the division title, this one is a must without a shadow of a doubt. Drew Brees has had the Falcons number in the Georgia Dome the last few years, but he’s also played a defense more akin to a practice squad than a tough and aggressive defense. Nolan will bring the pressure and Ryan will have many hookups with Roddy, Julio, HD, and Gonzalez. The Saints already thin linebacker unit is struggling even more as the season pushes towards the end. Falcons get it done at home after losing close ones to their enemies in the past.
There’s a tendency to not include a game the Falcons should win in theory, and to his credit, Coach Smith has done a good job of winning the games that they should win, but this seems to have letdown game written all over it. The Falcons have had a pretty rough stretch of games including playing 4 games in 18 days, playing their biggest rival twice, and traveling for another conference game in that time period. After coming off an emotional win, the Panthers are in desperation mode to save their season and they find a way to get it done to a Birds team that comes out flat after accumulating a 9-3 record. The Falcons lost a game they shouldn’t have last year to the Bucs in Tampa Bay and this game is eerily similar. Perhaps a defensive struggle ends with the Panthers handing them their 4th loss.
The Birds host the other Manning brother in the Georgia Dome right in the middle of playoff fever. At this time in 2011, the Giants were fighting for their playoff lives. They won a few games to get into the playoffs and the rest is history. This time will different as the Falcons look for a little payback from bouncing (and frankly embarrassing) them from the playoffs. The Giants may be frontrunners around this time the way the Packers were after their Super Bowl win or they may be struggling to get to the playoffs. Either way, the Falcons rebound at home after a tough NFC South loss in Charlotte. Koetter is no Mularkey, and actually gets some offensive points on the scoreboard.
Hard to believe that the Falcons “signature win” came against the Lions in 2011. It was one of the Birds more complete games and the defense answered the bell to being last in the NFL in 3rd down stops. Fans thought it was a sign of things to come, but sadly, it was the pinnacle of an otherwise mediocre year. Sitting at 10-4, the Falcons will be leering an eye towards the playoffs and seeding and get caught against a tough team that only stands to get better with Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson and a very complementary receiving corps. A tough one to give up, as it may have bye week considerations, but it may ultimately benefit in focusing the Falcons for a playoff run.
For the second straight year, the Falcons finish their season with the Bucs at home. While the Falcons won’t be getting a team that seemed to quit as they did in 2011, winning this one will surely have playoff seeding implications and likely make a difference for a second NFC South title in 3 years. The Bucs are looking up, but the Falcons are just further along and too stable to give this one up at home.
1) Leadoff: Final 2012 season record
2) Give your wins and losses capsules
3) What will be the Falcons biggest win?
4) Which will be the Birds worst loss?
5) What will the Falcons record be vs. the NFC South?
6) What will the breakdown be vs. the NFC East?
7) Any shocking losses in tow (a la Tampa Bay 2011)?
8.) Any huge wins in store (a la Ravens/Packers 2010)?
9) How will the Birds fair against the AFC West?
10) How do you rate this schedule with years past?
11) Care for any postseason predictions?