How the Falcons will go 12-4 and reclaim the NFC South title

There'll be a new champion of the NFC South this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

There'll be a new champion of the NFC South this season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

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

196 comments Add your comment

Tootsi

August 23rd, 2012
3:54 pm

Wakka Flacco Lame

August 23rd, 2012
3:55 pm

Tootsi, get over it.

Tootsi

August 23rd, 2012
3:55 pm

Mark,

How are they going go to 12-4 with Sam Baker at LT? That is a major weakness, and one that must be fixed if they are going to accomplish anything near what you are saying. He has been porous during the preseason and was awful last year. Svitek is a big loss that will be felt unless Lamar Holmes somehow manages to give them significant PT.

Mark Bradley

August 23rd, 2012
3:55 pm

Kudos, Tootsi.

Wakka Flacco Lame

August 23rd, 2012
3:56 pm

And the requests?

Juliooooo

August 23rd, 2012
3:59 pm

No way we lose to San Diego or Arizona. I think we will lose to Aints in Nola and maybe the Panthers in Charlotte. Still 12-4 but not a chance we lose to the Skelton led Cards.

Dawglasville

August 23rd, 2012
4:04 pm

Kudos to you Mark. You guys don’t make the big bucks by playing it safe. You are on a roll today. Hope you are right about all of the locals. Agree with Tootsi about Sam Baker. Everyone deals with injuries but this left tackle deal has been scary for a while.

tooltime236

August 23rd, 2012
4:07 pm

Mark in typical Atlanta sports fashion I could see them being really good, really bad, or anywhere in between. It seems like its always this way with our teams. I guess it just depends on how the chips fall. Will the offense be really good? Will the defense be really bad? Will the LT situation rear its head possibly leading to Ryan missing time? Will there be a pass rush? There’s a lot of questions with this team.

ChopAttack

August 23rd, 2012
4:07 pm

I missed the part where an asteroid wipes out Charlotte, NC.

Ted

August 23rd, 2012
4:10 pm

By week five the fans will blame the Offensive Line for not doing their job yet Dimitroff’s name will not be linked to the team he put together for some reason.

Jack

August 23rd, 2012
4:13 pm

That 24-2 loss has me thinking they ain’t gonna go 12-4.

Name Changed to Avoid Moderation

August 23rd, 2012
4:19 pm

I still have not seen anything to suggest that we can run the ball effectively. Pounding the ball up the middle and eating the clock has served us well for the past few seasons, but I don’t see how we can do that with an all-most done Turner and under-used Snelling AND and undersized Rogers.

Untill we can control the lines and clock, the opposing DBs will sit on our routes and eat us alive.

D-Man

August 23rd, 2012
4:19 pm

Shaamaluma Ding- Dong, so hit it!

Kane337

August 23rd, 2012
4:20 pm

I like your positive outlook Mark Bradley. It’s a tough schedule this year and we typically don’t fair well vs Saints or the NFC East. I hope you’re right about the final record.

ernisTbass

August 23rd, 2012
4:20 pm

9-7 third in NFC South, still can’t get off the field on 3rd down

Paul

August 23rd, 2012
4:22 pm

u write this crap every year for the falcants and the choke braves and it NEVER pans out. Really is a joke.

12-4, really??

August 23rd, 2012
4:23 pm

Your projection of 12-4 record is a stretch for this team. Poor defense coupled with a sputtering offense is the continuing theme for this team. Look for losses against the Broncos, the Raiders, the Eagles, the Cowboys, the Giants, and the Lions. So if they’re fortunate to go 4-2 in the Division, they’re looking at 9-7 record and maybe making the playoffs as a Wild Card. Looking over all at the NFC, the better teams include the Packers, the Giants, the Niners, the Bears, and the Lions. Until the Falcons commit to getting better defensive players, they’ll continue to lose to teams with a strong passing game. Abraham and Robinson are way past their prime.

realitycheck

August 23rd, 2012
4:26 pm

Bradley should be taken about as seriously as a fortune teller is. This is total hogwash outside the 404 or 770 area codes. I see 9-7 or something close to that. OL, defense, and overall depth are subpar to average. More kool aid for the homers and dreamers!

Jason

August 23rd, 2012
4:28 pm

10-6 seems more realistic to me. I don’t know that the Falcons are really any better than last year (other than an improvement by Julio). I see Asante Samuel as a minor upgrade to the defense, but not one that completely changes things. The middle linebacker position still has a lot of questions. Abe is getting older. Sam Baker and the OL are still big question marks. The Falcons have a good bit to prove. I still think that they are an above average team, but I don’t think that they are an exceptional team.

Best Buy

August 23rd, 2012
4:37 pm

Geaux Falcons!

dasaint212

August 23rd, 2012
4:37 pm

“How the Falcons will go 12-4 and reclaim the NFC South title” – Really??? HAhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!! Sweep the Saints??? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!! Sorry – I just could not stop laughing long enough to really comment on this? Thanks for the humor – I really needed this today. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Falcons 73

August 23rd, 2012
4:38 pm

Mark, while I believe the Falcons will be good, 12-4 maybe a bit too high (considering two new coordinators). I think it’s reasonable to see this team between 10-6 to 11-5, but they have too many issues on both lines of scrimmage. I think we will know a lot about our birds in the first few games of this season.

If we come out on offense in Kansas City with the same old Mike Turner run into the back of his own lineman on 1st & 2nd down, then you will know that nothing has really changed (and Mike Smith will be the one to blame). The same holds true on defense. If we stay in soft zone coverage’s and sit back waiting for things to happen, again Mike Smith will be to blame.

The Falcons have at least, equal talent to most of the top tier teams, but the real X factor will be Mike Smith and his overall philosophy. If he truly is committed to change, then this team can has a very bright future, if not we will be lucky to make the playoffs.

Steve From Dalton

August 23rd, 2012
4:40 pm

I don’t disagree with the record but I think we beat the Cards and split with the ‘Aints. We always split with the ‘Aints.

dasaint212

August 23rd, 2012
4:49 pm

@Steve From Dalton->We always split with the ‘Aints.
First of all it is the Saints! Get it right. And second you may have split with us in past years but since SP has taken over you need to do some homework! Check the facts – you have only beaten us twice since 2006. What games are you watching? This thread is just too funny!!!
September 25, 2006 New Orleans New Orleans 23 Atlanta 3
November 26, 2006 Atlanta New Orleans 31 Atlanta 13
October 21, 2007 New Orleans New Orleans 22 Atlanta 16
December 10, 2007 Atlanta New Orleans 34 Atlanta 14
November 9, 2008 Atlanta Atlanta 34 New Orleans 20
December 7, 2008 New Orleans New Orleans 29 Atlanta 25
November 2, 2009 New Orleans New Orleans 35 Atlanta 27
December 14, 2009 Atlanta New Orleans 26 Atlanta 23
September 26, 2010 New Orleans Atlanta 27 New Orleans 24
December 27, 2010 Atlanta New Orleans 17 Atlanta 14
November 13, 2011 Atlanta New Orleans 26 Atlanta 23
December 26, 2011 New Orleans New Orleans 45 Atlanta 16

a little girl

August 23rd, 2012
4:50 pm

A little girl would know better than to pick the Falcons against the Saints and superbowl winner Brees twice, against Denver and superbowl winner Manning, against the Panthers and national champion Newton twice, and against the New York Giants and 2 time and defending superbowl champion Eli Manning..

Falcons win no more than 3 of these 6 games.

Bobby

August 23rd, 2012
4:54 pm

Saints will wipe the field up from goal line to goal line with the Falcant’s and win both games. I see no threat from Atlanta for the Saints to be NFC South Champions again.

GEAUX SAINTS GEAUX!!!

FootballTopFan

August 23rd, 2012
4:57 pm

Football Top Fan would like to wish the Atlanta Falcons the best of luck and success during the (NFL) National Football League 2012-2013 season.

The Falcons have a very good team and fans believe they will go deep in the playoffs.

The Super Bowl is a realistic possibility.

Go Atlanta Falcons !!!!!

FootballTopFan@Yahoo.com

Falcon Fan

August 23rd, 2012
4:59 pm

you wrote, “I see a team that has won 33 games the past two years…” 2010 Falcons went 13-3 (0-1 postseason). 2011 Falcons went 10-6 (0-1 postseason).

Nativebird

August 23rd, 2012
5:04 pm

I hope you’re right. Oline, MLB and HC are still this teams weaknesses. HC because the former two…Oline has been a joke going on year 2 without addressing, and letting your best defensive player leave, plus becoming what that home Saints loss last year proved he’s become….a liability that actually lost a game for your team flat out. The one thing that all teams simply ask there coaches to not be, THE reason for a loss. A HC that over coaches when he shouldn’t and is too conservative when he shouldn’t.

Anderson

August 23rd, 2012
5:09 pm

I predict a 11-5 (10-6 at worst) record and the NFC South division title.

Oh, and a playoff win or two (hopefully three).

Big Daddy

August 23rd, 2012
5:15 pm

Good job Mark. I had already said that 13-3 could be possible. Let’s just hope one of us is right!!!

SavDawg

August 23rd, 2012
5:24 pm

I hate to keep harping on same subject but we DO NOT HAVE EITHER LINES OF SCRIMMAGE to compare to the elete teams in the NFL. We stack up with anybody in the skill positions but what good is that if we can’t get the ball to them and can’t get off the field on third down.

100 yards

August 23rd, 2012
5:34 pm

Turner will be our downfall in several games. He is too predictable. I would love to see a sat showing his average at the end of the 1st and his average during the 3rd and 4th. Tired, or they keying on his predictability. More the latter.

Falcons 62 - Saints 7

August 23rd, 2012
5:35 pm

September 16, 1973

Michael Vick

August 23rd, 2012
5:38 pm

Jeff, let me school you again. Only me and mora can get it (playoff victory) done.

yellowfever

August 23rd, 2012
5:39 pm

Hey Mark, pass that joint on over here to me.

steak dinner for all

August 23rd, 2012
5:39 pm

We go 12-4 if Turner remembers how to run and Matt Ryan plays over his body this year all worth i see atlanta 12-4..Neworleans despite the troubles 12-4 and carolina 9-7 and Tampabucs in Rear at 2-14….But since GM no get any help catchin ball we could be 3-13 next year despite Matt Ryan havin 26TDS and 11 Picks and over 3,409 yards for 2012….

Rise Up!

August 23rd, 2012
5:41 pm

I’m with your Mark.

When the Birds are on everyone else’s $hit-list, that’s when they bite everyone in the behind.

The fact that all the aint’s trolls are out in force proves they have no love for or confidence in their team. Like obama, they can’t run on their accomplishments (bounty, prima-dona-brees, illegal wiretaps, cease pool of a stadium / city, etc.) all they have is mud-slinging.

If we listen to all of the “experts” and the aint’s trolls, we should just hang it up.

Ted M

August 23rd, 2012
5:42 pm

I have been very encouraged by the first string offense this preseason. the last 2 preseasons the first string offense had been utterly pitiful and they lost the 1st game of the reg season both times. Prior to these performances I thought best case scenario was 9-7 now maybe Mark’s right…the Bradley jinx not with standing.

Hash browns anyone

August 23rd, 2012
5:45 pm

Well i see Michael Vick is here better be gettin more pads and ben-gay ready this season for him….

Game Changer

August 23rd, 2012
5:50 pm

Falcons will be 8 – 8 and best case 9 – 7. Got to have a defensive line and offensive line in football, Atlanta has neither

MaxxFalcon

August 23rd, 2012
5:58 pm

I love that you have us sweeping the division (especially NO) and beating the G-men, which are both tall orders, but you have us losing to the Cardinals? At home?? You are way off on that one. The Cardinals might end up being the worst team in the NFL this year, and there is no way we are losing to them at home, absolutely no way possible

J Ross

August 23rd, 2012
6:10 pm

Good article, good read, incredibly unrealistic.

No team scores THIS many points in every… single… game. Especially the Falcons. In a new offensive scheme. With offensive line troubles. It just doesn’t happen.

Averaging 28 points per game? No.

Big Crimson 75

August 23rd, 2012
6:12 pm

Bradley…..I’m in agreement. This Team wins a minimum of 11 as long as Ryan stays healthy.
P. Jerry & D. Robinson are looking as good as they’ve looked as Falcons.
I think the O Line & Pass Rush will improve over last year.
The new Coordinators will make major differences, especially on Defense.
Go Falcons & Roll Tide
Do It Julio!!!!!

Dawgdad (The Original)

August 23rd, 2012
6:15 pm

If you want to make money, it has been proven time and time again, bet against Bradley. This is the guy who says don’t mess with the rotation, keep Medlen in the rotation. The guy who always overrates the dawgs, who said the Braves will make the playoffs, despite their collapse, circa 2011.

Mark, I really enjoy your columns and love the insights, but your predictions will put you in the poor house.

Dawgdad (The Original)

August 23rd, 2012
6:16 pm

Medlen in the bullpen it should read.

Bill

August 23rd, 2012
6:19 pm

Don’t worry about the Saints. Carolina is the big threat in the south. And by the time they get to Philadelphia, Mike Vick will be in a cast.

Jay Dubu

August 23rd, 2012
6:20 pm

Mark,

Thanks for the pep rally! I’m going to print this out for reference, and when the Falcons fail to follow the script, I’ll send you a note.

Expect at leat 4 of them.

jfreak13713

August 23rd, 2012
6:21 pm

Falcons probably not going to sweep saints or panthers in my humble opinion and the dallas game scares me. I see a really good 10 – 6 or 11 – 5 team playing in hard very hard deivison. Playoffs likely and maybe if they are healthy at end of season maybe a run at a super bowl?? Packers, Giants, Saints, and Cowboys might have something to say about that as well!

Go Falcons!

Paul in NH

August 23rd, 2012
6:32 pm

“I see a team that has won 33 games the past two years ”

Mark – either check your eyesight or get a new calculator because I am pretty sure that a team that plays 16 games in the regular season and lost in the first playoff game both years did not win 33 games in the past two years