Following the SNF, MNF, BYE, it will be nice for the fans to get back to a regular ol’ Sunday afternoon game. Further, after 3 straight AFC East games, the Falcons gear up for an NFC South foe looking to rebound after a couple of down years. Some think this could be Josh Freeman’s make it or break year, but with the coaching changes a year ago and all the upgrades to the D in this offseason, I think he’ll get at least one more year if they don’t improve greatly this year. Make no mistake, Freeman is a talented physical QB, but he hasn’t had the coaching, preparation, and supporting cast to hang with one Matty Ice.
The Bucs almost conceded that in the offseason by bringing in CBs and Safeties to help defend against MR2, Drew Brees, and company. Passing for the Falcons will be more challenging than most games, but after watching JJ11 torch San Francisco in the NFC Championship game, I simply don’t fear any secondary in the league this year. Further, SJax39 is an upgrade over Turner, so we should be able to move the ball on the ground more. Division games are always tough, but the Bucs are the worst team in the division. Falcons 24 – Bucs 13 (5-1)
‘Member when the Cardinals were good? You ‘member… they had that guy who used to play with the Greatest Show on Turf. You ‘member, they had Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald who made up arguably the best WR tandem in the NFL. You ‘member, they played us in the playoffs when Matt Ryan was a rookie. You ‘member, Keith Brooking blew a coverage that kept us from advancing and they almost beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl… you ‘member, don’t ya’? Well those days are long gone. This team has a new head coach, Boldin won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, and the QB position has seen the likes of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and now Carson Palmer. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald just had his worst season of his career.
Oh, and there’s the small thing about the Atlanta Falcons being the new Greatest Show on Turf and sporting the top WR tandem in the NFL with a top 5 elite QB in Matt Ryan. Some think the Cards will be better and challenge the Hawks and 49ers. I agree, but only because of divisional rivalries. Our Birds outclass this team and should have little trouble dispatching them. Plus, the Falcons travel and perform well out west. Just don’t get caught looking ahead to the Panthers. Falcons 31 – Cardinals 24 (6-1)
I often can’t decide our biggest rival. It has to be New Orleans of course, but those damn Bucs! And now this outrageous Scam Newton… man, I hate that guy! Anyway, this game is very scary for us. We just came back from a game that should have been easy and we tinkered around too much… probably looking forward to this game. Well, in the words of Herm Edwards, “HELLO!” the Seahawks are next week and we’re 6-1 right now. Hard not to see the Falcons come out flat in this game. The Panthers will be better this year, though I’m not sold on Newton growing up mentally. That said, we have a difficult time containing him and on this day, Matt won’t be able to produce enough offense. Panthers 27 – Falcons 17 (6-2)
One of 2 NFL darlings this year, the Seahawks are on everyone’s radar to challenge for the NFC Championship. Most of the talk you’ll hear is about Russell Wilson and their fantastic defense. Pay no attention to that. The Falcons have shown that when they operate on all cylinders, no defense on the planet can contain them. I still chuckle watching reruns of Roddy White torching Sherman in the playoffs last year. Assuming our WRs don’t get thrown out for fighting their DBs, our offense will be fine. So that leaves Mr. Wilson. I mentioned this earlier, but almost every QB suffers from the sophomore slump. Maybe it’s that defenses adjust to certain tendencies, perhaps the QB slacks off on their offseason workouts and preparation due to endorsements and interviews, or maybe rest of the team slacks off thinking that the super QB will do it all.
Whatever the case, something happens in the second year. While I have seen some websites that counter the sophomore slump as a myth, they mostly say that the QB was still good, everything else factored into losing. For instance, one site said Matt Ryan was still good in 2009, but got hurt. Yeah, sophomore slump… maybe a jinx. Regardless, the team didn’t make the playoffs and regressed. Look for the Hawks, Skins, Colts, and 49ers take a step back. They may still be very good and make the playoffs, but they won’t look like the juggernauts they were when this past season ended. Big revenge game for the Hawks, but Smitty found a few coaches he is better than. Pete Carroll is one of them (steady Smitty > cheating Carroll). Oh, and it’s a west coast team playing on the east coast at 1:00 pm. Falcons 27 – Seahawks 16 (7-2)
Another of those “trap” games. We just survived the hyped rematch with Russell Wilson and have the dreaded Saints in just 4 days. The Birds will struggle in this one and let on e they should always win slip away. Why? Just cause. Division games are tough and Matt always has at least 2 bad games. SJax39 won’t be able to help and we’ll likely get run over since our passing game will keep the Bucs close and allow them to run the ball. Buccaneers 20 – Falcons 17 (7-3)
This game will go an awful long way toward deciding the division. I have the Saints at 7-3 entering Atlanta with losses to our Birds, the Patriots, and the Cowboys. I have this particular matchup scheduled in goats blood on my blackberry calendar (hey, I’ve been to Haiti, I know how to fight that Orleans voodoo). Brees and company will be fuming from the spanking we already gave them in the Superdome. Watch for this game to be VERY explosive in the first have. I absolutely expect to see fighting along the two sets of lines. You can also expect to be the national media underdog again this year, but something big is about to happen. I’ve already started to notice the public take the Falcons seriously. After this game, the favored swamp sons will start to lose their luster in the media’s eyes as well.
They’ll begin discussing what Drew Brees will need to add to beat the Falcons. It will be a street fight of epic proportion with each team trying desperately to shut down the passing game of the other. In the end, the advantage will go to Stephen Jackson and Osi Umenyora. SJax39 will have his best rushing day of the year and Osi will find his way to Brees 3 times. The Cage will rejoice in these free agent acquisitions if for nothing else but this one game. Falcons 20 – Saints 16 (8-3)
Talking about the Cardinals falling off the map, have the Bills been any good sense losing 4 straight Super Bowls? The good thing about playing the AFC East is that you are given 3 wins on a silver platter. Tom Brady is still one of the greatest, but the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets are horrible. Again, for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, the Falcons should mark this as a game they can’t afford to lose. Not to contradict my earlier statement that if you’re gonna lose, lose the AFC games; rather, this is a different argument. I count about 7 or 8 difficult games on the schedule.
This isn’t one of them. If you just win these games, the ones you’re “supposed” to win, your playoff hopes are almost taken care of. Then half of the “hard” games and you’re at about 12 wins already. I digress. The Bills were very bad last year and they have made a ton of changes. They traded back to grab E. J. Manuel out of Florida St. They may start with Kevin Kolb, but if Manuel isn’t playing by week 13, he’ll be considered a huge bust already. Watch the Bills only because these hot new QBs coming in have had immediate success. He could be the flash this year while last year’s heroes suffer their slump. Regardless of who plays, Birds roll. Falcons 31 – Bills 10 (9-3)
In week 14, most believe that the Saints, Falcons, Packers, 49ers, and Seahawks will be fighting for home field advantage. I agree. The Falcons will have a leg up on the Seahawks and Saints, but two of their last four games come against the Packers and 49ers. The last quarter of the schedule is probably the toughest and most significant. You want home field throughout the playoffs, especially if the alternative is Green Bay in January. So you have a chance to secure it here by beating your competition for those spots. You also can send the message that the Super Bowl comes through Atlanta. Momentum is underrated at Flowery Branch in my opinion. As for this game, I expect to see a shootout between Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers.
As the last Saints game was a dog fight with defenses shutting down the passing game, this will likely be a game of Madden played on the partially frozen tundra. The only wild card is the weather. If it’s bad, then I put my money of SJax39 to win the game. However, early December is usually not too bad in Green Bay yet. Therefore, I anticipate a high scoring game with tons of passing stats. JJ11 will grab 2 along with RW and TG. However, Rodgers will prevail in the end and the Cage may start to question a deep playoff run. Packers 38 – Falcons 35 (9-4)
RGIII was electric last year… right up to the point where Sean Weatherspoon nearly took his head off. Now Washington is struggling to make it through training camp. Should RGIII play in the preseason? Should he stay under center more? What if he gets hurt and is out by the time this game is played? This plays one of two ways.
Either the Skins keep their offensive formula from last year in which case I predict RGIII is injured and out for this game, or they adapt the offense or his style to protect him and he is 25% less effective. The Skins showed that without RGIII, they had nothing for the Birds. After losing a heartbreaker to the Pack, the Falcons will be motivated to not let another game slip away before the big matchup on MNF. SJax39 will provide more balance than the previous week and the pass defense won’t be as heavily challenged. Falcons 28 – Redskins 15 (10-4)
MNF right before Christmas and we are all expecting this game to be huge. Revenge for the Falcons… home field advantage of the line… can we cover a TE… can Matt beat the vaunted 49er defense? Well some of this will be true and some won’t. Like Wilson and RGIII, Kaepernick will regress some this year. Though not a rookie last year, this is essentially his sophomore season. Further, look for Defensive Coordinators who’ve had an offseason of study to implement better schemes to fight the read option. So I don’t expect the Seahawks or 49ers to be fighting us for home field advantage at this point. This game will be about revenge and making up the game we lost in Lambeau. Matt Ryan and the Falcons will have success against the Niners defense. My big concern for this game is our ability to stop the run and defend the flats and intermediate routes.
However, if we haven’t figured out how to cover a TE by week 16, I doubt we’ll be 10-4. My final concern is that Smitty got a little outcoached in the playoffs by Harbaugh. Somewhere along the line, if these Birds are going to the super Bowl, that has to start changing. Smitty turns a big corner on MNF and pulls out a huge win by actually making adjustments at halftime that put the clamps down on the 49ers running game while also corralling Kaepernick. Falcons 17 – 49ers 13 (11-4)
This game will matter this year because Green Bay will be tough and they will be fighting for home field advantage. Carolina will likely be about 6-9 or 7-8 at this point with not much to play for except beating their rival. The Falcons lost 3 games last year, 1 each to their NFC South rivals. This year they take 4 of 6. Cam Newton is mentally and emotionally as unstable as any QB in the league. When things don’t go well, he pouts and gives up more often than putting his team on his back and rising to the challenge. By week 17, he’ll be hearing questions about whether he’s the right fit in Carolina.
The Falcons conversely will be like rabid dogs with raw meat in their mouths. Matt and company got very close last year. They feel like they didn’t finish the drill. This game will be a small statement in their locker room to finish this drill and prepare for the off-season. They won’t want to lose with a potential BYE week looming in the playoffs. Falcons play loose but strong and win behind timely passing and the legs of SJax39. Falcons 24 – Panthers 10 (12-4)
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