As the Falcons and Football supremely hated “dead zone” rolls on, it’s time to start thinking about the actual upcoming season in terms of opponents and schedule. As many are on vacation, out of town, engaged in yard projects, or just decompressing from football, than this one will open up to you Cage Members to talk about and keep it going here in the thick of the off-season. Here’s a brief list from The Cage, but make sure to take over and keep the great conversations rolling………..
It’s easy to look at the bigger games on the schedule, but when it comes to having success in the NFL, you have to beat your rivals. And even though the first game of the season will have all the hype with Sean Payton returning the sideline at home in New Orleans, you always have to hold serve at home against your biggest rivals. Although the Bucs and Panthers are supposedly on the rise, the Saints are still one of the best teams not just in the NFC South, but in the NFC as a whole. The two teams have won the division the last four seasons. If the Falcons win on the road in week 1, this one may not be quite as important, but right now it’s the big one, just like every year.
Many will rank the Patriots and Niners game over this one due to the various timing of the season, but this one is in an extremely important point in the season. The loosely translated phrase of “when December hits, the playoffs are in the balance,” really does ring true. Many times, the month of December does is the deciding time frame. This is the 13th game of the season and not only is this a huge game on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL in primetime, but it also sets up a brutal end-of-season stretch for the Falcons. The Falcons play the Redskins at home, the 49ers on the road on Monday Night Football, and host the ever-dangerous Panthers with the last game of the year. A win could build huge momentum, a loss could start a dreadful swoon.
Perhaps this should be the obvious #1 and it really couldn’t be argued against. It’s the next to last game of the season of a difficult schedule and many times the last game or two determine the playoffs and seeding. The only counterpoint that could hold any water is that even though the NFL stacks big games like this at the end, many times it has been decided a few games before, at least in terms of the overall NFL records and standings. Again, looking at this from a perspective of the 1st week, this is the biggest game simply due to the 49ers representing the NFC in 2013 in the Super Bowl, but the idea is that there is a ton of football that’s played and could swing the season in many different ways. Week 1, this is the biggest game of the season, but many times that changes even by week 8.
Conceivably, this could the biggest of games, at least in terms of hype and storylines. You have the two most winning franchises over the past five years, Sunday Night Football, the “big brother vs. little brother” feel of Thomas Dimitroff bringing his “Patriot Way South” vs. his mentor Bill Belichick (as Seminole Warrior named sometime back), Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan, but also the two teams who fell short in their respective conference championships. It’s a very early primetime game that could really help build confidence going forward for either team. This game is a big one because it starts a pretty tough run that will follow the next 6 games (Jets, Bucs, Panthers, Seahawks, Saints). Any other schedule would see this game at the very top, but a massively loaded NFC Conference puts others ahead in 2013.
When the final rankings came out a few weeks ago according to NFL.com, the Falcons – Seahawks game came in as the #2 best game of the 2012 season (either most watched or just highly rated) and it would be easy to place this one higher. No two teams have received more off-season hype than the Seahawks and 49ers. The pendulum has completely swung all the way around to NFC West after being one of the worst divisions in the NFL. Now they’re everyone’s darlings. Russell Wilson did well vs. the Falcons in the playoffs, almost came up with a win, and tweeted “#championship-offseason when they traded for Percy Harvin. Many to most are picking the Seahawks as Super Bowl favorites over the Falcons and several other teams. In fact, this one may end up being the biggest one of all for several reasons. It’s the ninth game of the season and it is in a huge position being sandwiched between away games to the Panthers and Bucs, followed up by a short week vs. the Saints on Thursday Night Football (see #1 above). When you go through these games and several times it becomes very apparent just how much of a challenge the Falcons have in 2013.
Here’s a quick refresher of the schedule if you need: