I think the Falcons will be really good, Super Bowl good. Maybe that makes me a raging homer. Or maybe it means I see a team that has won 23 games the past two years and is poised to break upward. While you’re discussing among yourselves, I’ll tell you how this regular season will go.
Sept. 9, at Kansas City: The Chiefs aren’t bad, but this will be a coming-out party for Dirk Koetter’s new offense. Expect Matt Ryan to throw 35 passes. Expect Julio Jones to catch 10 of them, three for touchdowns. Falcons 28, Chiefs 20.
Sept. 17, Denver: It’s a Monday night game, and the Falcons haven’t done so well in those. Peyton Manning now plays for the Broncos, but this will serve as a prime-time showcase for the other starting quarterback. Falcons 30, Broncos 17.
Sept. 23, at San Diego: Here’s where the issue of logistics rears its head. The Falcons face a short week against a West Coast team that opens 2012 with a point to prove. Shootout time in San Dog (old naval term). Chargers 34, Falcons 30.
Sept. 30, Carolina: Some see the Panthers as the rising power in the NFC South. Maybe so, but this is one division rival the Falcons have come to own. They’re 6-2 against Carolina under Mike Smith, 4-0 since 2009. Falcons 27, Panthers 17.
Oct. 7, at Washington: Will Robert Griffin III be starting by now? Will D.C. be more abuzz over the Redskins or the Nationals? Will the Falcons lose to a rookie quarterback? The last question is by far the easiest. Falcons 24, Redskins 17.
Oct. 14, Oakland: The pre-bye part of the schedule has been challenging (K.C. and S.D. on the road) but not oppressive, and Oakland at the Dome shouldn’t be too troubling. But the schedule is about to toughen. Falcons 35, Raiders 14.
Oct. 28, at Philadelphia: The roughest stretch of the season commences here. Michael Vick, who used to play for the Falcons, has said the Eagles could become a dynasty. They won’t, but they will win this game. Eagles 28, Falcons 24.
Nov. 4, Dallas: A Sunday-nighter against America’s Team will be the season’s pivot point. With a date at New Orleans upcoming, this could become a losing streak. But Mike Smith’s teams don’t have losing streaks. Falcons 27, Cowboys 17.
Nov. 11, at New Orleans: By now, the Saints will have interim coach Joe Vitt back. And yes, it’s more than a little weird that the interim coach has been suspended by the NFL. But Sean Payton still won’t be around. Falcons 31, Saints 30.
Nov. 18, Arizona: Trap game here. The Falcons are 7-2 and flying high off that narrow victory in Superdome, and Arizona is nicely suited as a stealth opponent. Consider this the season’s first real misstep. Cardinals 21, Falcons 17.
Nov. 25, at Tampa Bay: With that egregious home upset out of their system, the Falcons take on the Buccaneers, who figure again to run last in the NFC South. A rudimentary road victory ensues. Falcons 30, Buccaneers 13.
Nov. 29, New Orleans: A Thursday night date against the team that keeps embarrassing the Falcons on national TV. That pent-up frustration yields a second victory over their nemesis in 18 days. Falcons 24, Saints 23.
Dec. 9, at Carolina: With 10 days to prepare, the Falcons will manage to overcome the torpor that undid them after their first victory over New Orleans. Still won’t be easy, though. Falcons 27, Panthers 24 (overtime).
Dec. 16, New York Giants: The memory of the wretched 24-2 playoff loss in the Meadowlands burns, and this is yet another chance for the surging Falcons to prove their bona fides. Falcons 30, Giants 28.
Dec. 22, at Detroit: And now a Saturday night game. (For the record, the Falcons will not play on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday this season.) And another loss seems in order, don’t you think? Lions 30, Falcons 24.
Dec. 29, Tampa Bay: The NFC South having already been won, the Falcons are playing for positioning now. They finish 12-4 and secure the NFC’s No. 2 seed (behind Green Bay) in rousing fashion. Falcons 35, Buccaneers 10.
By Mark Bradley