The Atlanta Falcons (photo courtesy of Atlanta Falcons) went from 13-3 and ten yards from the SuperBowl in 2012 to a 4-12 record in 2013 and that in itself is an example of how difficult predicting an NFL season can be. Most teams are one key injury away from a bad season or in the Falcons case several key injuries in 2013 although some terrible line play also contributed in their downfall. With the injuries clearing up nicely and some key free agent signings in areas of need, the Falcons seem to be back on the road to another successful season that could see the team get back into double figures in the win column.
The opponents may have been set several months ago but the NFL schedule release for the new season is still highly anticipated, a schedule that may appear to be a difficult one before release may not look so bad when the order and dates of games are released and of course vice versa. In the Falcons case for 2014 they have road games in cold weather outdoor stadiums in New York, Minnesota and Green Bay but were fortunate enough to get two of the three cold weather games early enough to take the cold out of the equation although a trip to Lambeau Field to face the Packers on December the 8th presents a big task.
Atlanta will play one less home game in the Georgia Dome due to a trip to London to play the Lions in October where they are the home team, this game is followed by the bye week which at week 9 is in principal the perfect time to have it. They will also play four teams that will have a new head coach in 2014.
The back end of the Falcons schedule looks by far the toughest, especially after Thanksgiving when the Falcons will have to play a very tough Cardinals defense, that road game in Green Bay, the Steelers at home (although we will have to wait and see what sort of a team Pittsburgh will be) and finish with the Saints on the road followed by home to Carolina.
The Falcons currently only have two ‘primetime’ television games, one Thursday night game at home to Tampa (all teams get one Thursday night game) and the other being the Monday night game at the aforementioned Lambeau Field. The league now has the ability to flex the television schedule as early as week 5 (it was previously set at week 11) in an event to avoid poor match-ups that looked better before the season started being nationally televised. In short if the Falcons season plays out more like 2012 than 2013 then they could get at least one more ‘primetime’ game later on.
Week 1 Sunday Sept. 7 New Orleans Saints Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 1:00 p.m. ET
Since Mike Smith took over in Atlanta the Falcons have only beaten their most hated rival three times including an opening day loss in New Orleans last year. That said in many ways this is the perfect game for Atlanta to start the season with and a win would go a long way in laying the ghosts of 2013. Prediction: Win. Record 1-0
Week 2 Sunday Sept. 14 at Cincinnati Bengals Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH 1:00 p.m. ET
This game that will no doubt be billed as AJ Green vs Julio Jones and this will be the first time that these two teams have played against each other since 2010. I don’t see any reason why the Falcons do not come away with the win here despite a good Bengals defense. Prediction: Win. Record 2-0
Week 3 Thursday Sept. 18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 8:25 p.m. ET
The Falcons first nationally televised game of the season against what we expect to be an improved Bucs team under new head coach Lovie Smith. There are no easy games in the NFC South and the Bucs will keep this close but it would be a surprise if the Falcons did not come away with the W. Prediction: Win. Record 3-0
Week 4 Sunday Sept. 28 at Minnesota Vikings TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN 4:25 p.m. ET
The Falcons caught a break with this game being played in September and not November or worse as this game will be played outdoors in Minnesota while their new stadium is built. The Falcons new 3-4 defensive alignment will face its biggest test trying to stop the league’s best running back in Adrian Peterson and a lot will rest on this battle although the Falcons should have too much for an otherwise average Vikings team. Prediction: Win. Record 4-0
Week 5 Sunday Oct. 5 at New York Giants MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ 1:00 p.m. ET
The second consecutive road game for the Birds who again got lucky playing outdoors in New Jersey at this time of year. The Giants should prove to be one of the tougher opponents on the schedule but you never know which Giants team will show up and they have always played well early in the season. The Falcons will hope for a better performance than their last visit to MetLife where they mustered just 2 points in a 24-2 playoff loss in 2011 although they did get revenge in 2012 beating the Giants 34-0 in Atlanta. Tough game to call but I’ll go with a Falcons win on a late field goal. Prediction: Win. Record 5-0
Week 6 Sunday Oct. 12 Bears Chicago Bears Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 1:00 p.m. ET
Falcons fans will remember the Bears last trip to the Georgia Dome where Matt Ryan made one of his signature plays to bring the Falcons back from the brink with just 6 seconds to go.Watch the crazy ending here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmJRVcFrDmE . Although the Bears defense is not what is was they now have offensive weapons to worry about in Marshall, Jeffrey and Forte so the Birds defense will have to be at its best in the Falcons are going to come away with another win and we could get a similar ending to 2008. Prediction: Win. Record 6-0
Week 7 Sunday Oct. 19 at Baltimore Ravens M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD 1:00 p.m. ET
The Falcons lost on their only ever visit to Baltimore and will have to be at their best to avoid the same result here. I expect the Ravens to bounce back from a down year and are notoriously good at home where the crowd really gets into it in what can be one of the loudest outdoor stadiums in the NFL. A lot will depend on whether the Falcons can run the ball effectively here and I see this as a relatively low scoring affair. Prediction: Loss. Record 6-1
Week 8 Sunday Oct. 26 Detroit Lions Wembley Stadium, London, UK 9:30 a.m. ET
Seeing as I will be attending this game I am certainly hoping for a win along with a dry day in London. This could turn into a shoot out but as long as the Falcons can keep Calvin Johnson quiet in the most part they should come away as comfortable winners that said even if Johnson breaks out the Falcons should still have enough to overcome the Lions. Prediction: Win. Record 7-1
Week 9 Sunday Nov. 2 — BYE — —
Week 10 Sunday Nov. 9 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL 1:00 p.m. ET
Its difficult to know what type of team Tampa will be by week 10 and although Atlanta was blown out here last year they have had success, wining three of their last five visits here. The Falcons will benefit from the bye week and will be expected to win here if they have serious playoff aspirations. Prediction: Win. Record 8-1
Week 11 Sunday Nov. 16 at Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 1:00 p.m. ET
Atlanta has struggled against Carolina of late, especially in both containing Cam Newton and the Panthers pass rush. This game will be no different and the Falcons will have to address both of those issues if they are to come away with a victory. Prediction: Loss. Record 8-2
Week 12 Sunday Nov. 23 Cleveland Browns Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 1:00 p.m. ET
The Browns may have a new quarterback for 2014 but their offense still lacks weapons although the defense is good its hard to see anything other than a home win although in true Falcons style they may make harder work of it than they should. Prediction: Win. Record 9-2
Week 13 Sunday Nov. 30 Arizona Cardinals Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 4:05 p.m. ET
The Arizona defense has given Atlanta and Matt Ryan huge problems in the last two meetings and I expect this to be no different. This could be a low scoring affair but the Falcons should prevail at home. Prediction: Win. Record 10-2
Week 14 Monday Dec. 8 at Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI 8:30 p.m. ET
Primetime in Green Bay and the weather and temperature will no doubt be a factor. The conditions are not the only thing the Falcons should worry about as the Packers should again be one of the NFC best with the return of Aaron Rodgers who now has a running game for the first time as long as Eddie Lacy can continue the form from his rookie year. Prediction: Loss. Record 10-3
Week 15 Sunday Dec. 14 Pittsburgh Steelers Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 1:00 p.m. ET
Difficult to know what type of season the Steelers will have although they did little in free agency to suggest they will be any better than last year. The Steelers fans will be out in force but the Falcons will be expected to win at home. Prediction: Win. Record 11-3
Week 16 Sunday Dec. 21 at New Orleans Saints Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA 1:00 p.m. ET
Back to Mike Smith’s record against the Saints and just one win in the Superdome since 2008 which came in 2010, their last win in New Orleans was back in 2002. Prediction: Loss. Record 11-4
Week 17 Sunday Dec. 28 Carolina Panthers Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 1:00 p.m. ET
If all goes well the Falcons should have a playoff spot in the bag before week 17 but could be playing for seeding or the NFC South title meaning the starters having to play the majority if not all of this game. Although this will probably come down to the wire, I expect the Falcons to come out on top and split the series. Prediction: Win. Record 12-4