Here’s how the 2011 Falcons will go 12-4 and grab a wild card

One of these teams will win the NFC South, I boldly predict. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

One of these teams will win the NFC South, I boldly predict. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I erred egregiously in my preseason assessment of the 2010 Falcons. I had them going 12-4, winning the NFC South and playing Dallas for the NFC title. They went 13-3, won the NFC South and wouldn’t have played Dallas had they reached the NFC title game, which they didn’t. I’ll try to do better this time.

At Chicago, Sept. 11: The Bears played for the NFC title and, like the Falcons had done, lost to the Packers. Had the Falcons and Bears played in the Dome last January, the home team would have won by two touchdowns. At Soldier Field the visitor will win by one touchdown. Falcons 20, Bears 13.

Philadelphia, Sept. 18: Until they tripped over the Packers, the 2010 Falcons had been routed only once. That came in Philadelphia on a day Michael Vick didn’t play. (Kevin Kolb did, and quite well.) The Falcons keep trying to get faster, but Philly still seems too quick for them. Eagles 27, Falcons 21.

At Tampa Bay, Sept. 25: The Buccaneers won 10 games last season and have been tapped as the rising power in the NFC. But nine of those victories came against teams that finished with losing records. Meaning: Not so fast, rising power. The Falcons go to 2-0 on the road. Falcons 24, Buccaneers 17.

At Seattle, Oct. 2: Here’s where the stiff early schedule takes it toll. The Falcons are better than the Seahawks, but coming off three rough games and facing a long trip to the not-so-sunny Northwest, they’ll slip. Didn’t think they were going to win all their away games, did you? Seahawks 17, Falcons 14.

Green Bay, Oct. 9: When last they met, the Falcons came within 28 points of victory. But the Packers were hot, and the Falcons, who hadn’t played a truly rotten game all season, played a truly rotten game. That outcome has become a rallying point in Flowery Branch. It’ll show. Falcons 24, Packers 20.

Carolina, Oct. 16: We pause to assess. The Falcons have opened with five playoff teams from 2010, with three of the games on the road, and have gone 3-2. They’ll have their way with the Panthers. When last Cam Newton played in the Dome, his team won 56-17. Not this time. Falcons 56, Panthers 17.

At Detroit, Oct. 23: This is kind of a scary game. The Falcons should win, but this is another given Sunday in the NFL, and we know what that means. With Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, the Lions have enough good players to cause some palpitations. Falcons 23, Lions 21.

At Indianapolis, Nov. 6: The Falcons come off a bye week and get Peyton Manning in his house. There was a time when this would have seemed a bridge too far. That time is gone. Peyton still’s a great player, but the Colts aren’t what they were. And the Falcons are really good. Falcons 30, Colts 21.

New Orleans, Nov. 13: When he gets done suspending players who aren’t yet pros, Roger Goodell needs to do something about this Falcons-Saints series. These games are so boring! (Yes, I’m kidding.) Last season the Falcons won there and lost here. This time will be different. Falcons 30, Saints 27.

Tennessee, Nov. 20: The Titans came close to winning a Super Bowl on this field, but that was in January 2000. Which was a while ago. Over the offseason Tennessee fired the respected Jeff Fisher and promoted assistant Mike Munchak. I’m not seeing that as any sort of upgrade. Falcons 33, Titans 10.

Minnesota, Nov. 27: Another new, yet old, quarterback for the Vikings. After the (retired-for-the-moment) Brett Favre, the Purple has turned to Donovan McNabb. He’ll do OK. The team won’t. New coach Leslie Frazier is picking up the pieces left after Brad Childress was canned.  Falcons 28, Vikings 17.

At Houston, Dec. 4: Another pause for stock-taking. The Falcons are 9-2, having won seven in a row. They’re again playing for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Here’s where the the bandwagon hits a pothole. It’s way past time for the Texans to do something, and this has to be a year of arrival. Texans 17, Falcons 16.

At Carolina, Dec. 11: A get-well game, even if it’s on the road. The Falcons will enter having won five of six against the Panthers, and nothing will happen to arrest the trend. Only questions: Will Cam be starting by then and, if not, what will Rev. Cecil Newton have to say about that? Falcons 31, Panthers 20.

Jacksonville, Dec. 15: That’s correct. For the first (but not the last) time this regular season, the Falcons won’t be playing on Sunday. This is a Thursday night game. Shame it’s not against a better opponent, though. Those who have the NFL Network will be tuning out by halftime. Falcons 41, Jaguars 14.

At New Orleans, Dec. 26: OK, here’s a non-Sunday game against a superb opponent. Falcons-Saints in that other dome on the Monday night after Christmas. In England they call Dec. 26 Boxing Day. In New Orleans they’ll remember it as the night their Saints clinched the NFC South. Saints 30, Falcons 27.

Tampa Bay, Jan. 1: No, it’s not the Rose Bowl, but this is a game of weight on New Year’s Day. The Falcons need this to clinch a wild card. They’ll get it. They’ll finish 12-4. They’ll win two playoff games and reach the NFC title game against Philly. Who’ll win then? Stay tuned. Falcons 35, Buccaneers 20.

By Mark Bradley

175 comments Add your comment

MJC

August 19th, 2011
1:32 pm

Looks like we might have another great season on tap. Hopefully we can keep it rolling into the playoffs this time!

MJC

August 19th, 2011
1:32 pm

Really? First? That’s a, well, first.

Dejay

August 19th, 2011
1:33 pm

Uh, first? Do I get a gift card from Montgomery Ward or Service Merchandise?

D. Bell

August 19th, 2011
1:33 pm

I think 12-4 will be good enough to win the South, but I don’t see two of those loses coming to Philly and Seattle. Did you see Vick last night? Terrible reads, terrible decision-making, terrible throws.

Dejay

August 19th, 2011
1:34 pm

Oh well. I guess I’ll take a consolation prize, which is the home version of blogging on the AJC…

leon

August 19th, 2011
1:36 pm

Wow, Falcons loose to Seattle I doubt it. Seattle has big questions at QB and O-line

D. Bell

August 19th, 2011
1:36 pm

12-4 will probably be good enough to win the South. The Saints are already dealing with injuries, their offense line looks weak, their schedule is almost as tough as the Falcons.

Also, I don’t see them losing to Philly. Vick looked terrible last night. It’s only the preseason, but damn, those were some bad decisions and terrible throws.

chickenman

August 19th, 2011
1:39 pm

eh… 4 losses with this schedule would be disappointing…13-3 would be my guess because this team is complete… i think from what i have seen in camp so far a special season… i for the first time feel confident about our secondary… grimes is a beast hate it or love it he is one of the best zone corners in the game right now… with 2 young safetys..( look out for a probowl year from willie mo) …the offense needs no mention because we can run or throw pick your poison.. matt ryan is everything we hope post vick era.. lets sit back and enjoy

The Grinch

August 19th, 2011
1:40 pm

I hope so Mark, but I’m leaning more towards 11-5. I’m just hoping we’re healthy at the end of the season and can get that elusive playoff win.

12-4 is a...

August 19th, 2011
1:44 pm

…pipe dream with this schedule – playing mostly winning teams from last year, including perennial powers Indy, Chicago (well, some of the time), Green Bay, & Philly will be a hard learned lesson in a winners schedule vs a mediocre team schedule – that is, unless they do something to shore up their depth and defense. Here’s hoping that they do…

Fulton Kuykendall

August 19th, 2011
1:45 pm

Doesn’t matter; they will choke in the playoffs, as usual………

BiG Z

August 19th, 2011
1:45 pm

I like your picks Mark BUT We will not lose to the SEAHAWKS! So I would say we finish 13-3 or 14-2 if we are lucky. We will have HOME FIELD Advantage again but this time we will take care of business. I think last year we kind of got the BIG HEAD and lost focus after we had beat the Packers in the regular season. Not trying to make any excuses but that was a BAD week in the ATL. That damn snow strom thru alot of people off their game that week. I think JA55 got in a car accident and alot of other crazy things happened that week. We did not have a good week of practice and Brain Williams got hurt and we had to play Chris Owens. Come to think about we still have to play Chris Owens. OS

Fulton Kuykendall

August 19th, 2011
1:46 pm

Just like we did back in 1978 and 1980.

Fulton Kuykendall

August 19th, 2011
1:46 pm

Choke, I mean.

honest_abe

August 19th, 2011
1:47 pm

i’d take 12-4 all day with this schedule. shoot i’d be fine with 10-6 as long as we got in the playoffs.

let’s keep our fingers crossed. the bradley jinx is FIERCE!

BamaDad

August 19th, 2011
1:48 pm

Tough schedule, that’s for sure. Hope we can beat the injury bug.

Troy Taylor

August 19th, 2011
1:52 pm

BTW, Brad Childress has been gone from Minn.

Leeman Bennett

August 19th, 2011
1:53 pm

Don’t you believe it…………………….

Lenny Wilkins

August 19th, 2011
1:53 pm

I think you are giving the Texans D a little too much credit. They may be better with Wade Phillips, but I don’t see the Falcons scoring under 20pts all year(except against the Eagles maybe)

Leeman Bennett

August 19th, 2011
1:54 pm

Falcons, 8-8……….Bulldawgs, 6-6…………Both head coaches fired, they call me out of retirement to come back and coach the Birds. You heard it here first.

Leeman Bennett

August 19th, 2011
1:55 pm

And Goff comes back to coach the Dawgs.

Leeman Bennett

August 19th, 2011
1:57 pm

You heard it here first.

Ted M

August 19th, 2011
1:58 pm

Nice backhanded pat on the back (your back) with that first paragragh.

Ted M

August 19th, 2011
2:00 pm

MN Head Coach: Leslie Frazier

cdog

August 19th, 2011
2:00 pm

wow mark, if they go 12-4 they will win their division.nobody else their will finish above them.no team in their division is better than the falcons.wow! where do you get your stuff from?.i think you just like to be heard or seen.

Brad Childress?

August 19th, 2011
2:02 pm

Um, Brad Childress has already been fired, so the end for him will have happened by then. Just a reminder, Leslie Frazier is the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings

Realist

August 19th, 2011
2:03 pm

12-4 is nice but Bradley has them winning games they shouldn’t, and losing games they should win.

Stinger2

August 19th, 2011
2:11 pm

Whatever Bradley says will happen likely will not happen.

Anderson

August 19th, 2011
2:12 pm

I have told people that I am predicting a 11-5 record (+1/-1 error of margin) so I can buy M Bradley’s prediction. I agree with M Bradley in predicting a W over Green Bay. However,I think this is the year the Falcons beat the Eagles (just a gut feeling). I think the “Birds will go 6-2 in their division. The road games at Seattle,Detroit,Houston,and Indiannapolis will be a challenge…..’Birds will hold their own but have a setback (or two) among those games.

I think the NFC South will be decided by one game or even a tie-breaker. For me,it is an even battle between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. Since I’m a Falcons fan,I will give the benefit of the doubt to my ‘Birds.

Atlanta87

August 19th, 2011
2:14 pm

Yeah Mark. I think the Falcons are real scarred of Vick and his 3 ints he threw last night. At home, I don’t think we lose this game.

Ed Zactly

August 19th, 2011
2:16 pm

You’re right, Mr. Kuykendall, the Falcons have been watching game films of the ‘78 and ‘80 seasons so they’ll remember how to choke. There are so many comparisons to those teams and this one….N O T!! Not only are your comments irrelevant – they are over 30 years irrelevant. One horrid game a year ago against the eventual champs and and a couple of loses over 30 years ago hardly constitutes a trend! “We” – like you’re a Falcons fan? I doubt it very much.

Check your facts

August 19th, 2011
2:16 pm

Tampa Bay was not a playoff team last year and Childress has not been the Vikings coach since late last season. Maybe if you quit worshipping the dawgs you could keep up with what’s going on in the NFL.

ted williams head

August 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

Chilly is long gone from the ViQueens. Where have you been Mark

Jeff

August 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

I think 12-4 is a good target to shoot for. Last year, we slightly exceeded it. With a tougher-looking schedule, I’d be happy with 12-4 this year.

epic quibble

August 19th, 2011
2:39 pm

10 – 6. Book it, Bradley. Done.

Roll Tide Boaz

August 19th, 2011
2:39 pm

Wow, I had high hopes for the falcons until I saw that schedule. I think the Falcons will be better than last year but will be lucky to go 10-6 with that schedule. Still can’t wait to see Julio run wild though.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 19th, 2011
2:48 pm

At best I see 11-5. That schedule is brutal. I can easily see 9-7. Tough matchups on the road and at home. Turner needs to stay healthy.

PreyDawg

August 19th, 2011
2:50 pm

Lowcountry and Bradley must not watch much pro football. You are both all wet. 14 and 2 and the number one seed if we stay healthy.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 19th, 2011
2:52 pm

Yeah, just pass over whateve it is that you are smoking on big guy.

Runner-

August 19th, 2011
3:12 pm

11-5, miss playoffs by 1 game, you all will see. Other than that, go Falcons!!

chem

August 19th, 2011
3:22 pm

Tampa will be good this year. They’ve got QB Freeman and RB Blount starting from week 1. Those two will give the Falcons fits for years to come.

Falcons4Eva

August 19th, 2011
3:26 pm

11- 5 Falcons
11-5 Saints

Very interesting to see which is the Wild Card and Which is The Division Champ!

elroy

August 19th, 2011
3:34 pm

Bradley, your predicitions are the worst. just stop! ajc should drop you!

Infamous

August 19th, 2011
3:36 pm

I think playing Philly early is a plus for us. Last year was a blip for Vick. He will come back down to earth. Not as bad as those 3 picks in 7 passes last night, but somewhere in between. Take away the big play from Philly and they can not win. Several teams proved that down the stretch last year. This will be the first time in many tries that we will actually beat the Eagles.

jake

August 19th, 2011
3:43 pm

This is honestly one of the worst, most biased articles I’ve ever read on here. I saw the title was excited to see an educated prediction, but this article never comes close. I’ve been a Falcons fan since birth, but let’s look at this article logically.

Number 1….Mark, you have the Falcons beating the Panthers 56-17. The Panthers, who in 2010 without Julius Pepper and Thomas Davis were the 17th ranked total defense in the NFL. As the worst team (record) in the NFL, they allowed 25.5 points per game, the Panthers never allowed more than 37 points in one game. On top of that, their new head coach is Ron Rivera, who is a defensive minded coach and led the Chargers last year to the NFL’s #1 rated defense in terms of total yards. From the Falcons point of view, do you know how many times the Falcons have scored 56 points or more, Mark? One time. One single time, in 1973 vs the Saints. And you expect them to come out and put up their highest point total in nearly 40 years?

Number 2, two of the four teams you have the Falcons losing to are the Seahawks and the Texans. For starters, since we drafted Matt Ryan, the Falcons have not lost to either the Seahawks OR the Texans, much less in the same season.

I’m guessing you picked your scores by blindly throwing darts at random towards a dart board? You have the Falcons averaging 28.3 points per game. You have them increasing their points per game by over 3 points from last year even though there schedule is significantly harder this year (not to mention the Falcons haven’t averaged over 28 points per game in the last decade).

The one thing I don’t mind is the actual record. I think 12-4 is reasonable (11-5 is the most likely statistically)….but the way you picked it was just awful. I want you to print off this article and at the end of the year, go back and track how well you did. Then use it as a reminder that next year, you should actually do some research instead of writing whatever you think in your head. It must be too easy to get a job as a journalist these days.

Mr Phil

August 19th, 2011
3:47 pm

Bradley is on the sauce!! Losing to the Seahawks and Texans. Really?!!! Omg. At least tell me you are drinking quality stuff and not that cheap whiskey.

ATLBadger

August 19th, 2011
3:49 pm

LOL. Bradley still thinks Childress is the HC of the Vikings!

Tyron Shulaces

August 19th, 2011
3:51 pm

we’ll be 4-12 if we don’t cut that Burnt Toast #21 out of the secondary.

SPS

August 19th, 2011
3:52 pm

I think 12-4 is about right, but I think that record wins the division title. Saints will go 10-6.

reebok

August 19th, 2011
3:52 pm

Falcons will start 1-4, with the lone win against either the Seahawks or the Bucs. Thr Falcons are a fundamentally unsound team with a defense that got shredded at home last year after an off week, by a team on 5 days’ rest. Falcons may make it to 9-7 by exploiting the soft part of the schedule. 9-7 may let them sneak in as a WC.