The NFL schedule was released yesterday and with it brings everyone from experts to casual fans making their predictions for their teams 2010 fortunes. Brace yourself, this is my attempt.
Strength of Schedule
Using the always dangerous (and almost completely worthless) Strength of Schedule based on last year’s records, the Falcons play the 20th toughest schedule, or 12th easiest, depending on how you look at it. Their opponents have a combined 2009 record of 127-129. The downside is they have the toughest schedule in the NFC South. The Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints have the 25th, 26th and 27th toughest schedules, respectively.
The Road to the Playoffs
Their road schedule (outside the division) is very soft. They play in Pittsburgh without the services of Big Ben which will mean we get Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon or the newly acquired Byron Leftwich. None of those names instill fear in Brian VanGorder.
They finish their non-division road schedule with games in Cleveland, Seattle and St. Louis. A cake walk if I’ve ever seen one. The game in Seattle is a possible landmine since no matter how bad the Seahawks are, teams get up in that Pacific Northwest mist and can lay an egg, but I don’t see it happening.
The nation (at least part of the nation since one of their primetime games are on the NFL network) will get to watch the Falcons twice this season. On a Thursday night in Week 10 Matt Ryan’s 2008 draft mate, Joe Flacco, brings the Ravens to Atlanta.
The final primetime game will be the last Monday Night Football game of the year vs. the Saints in the Georgia Dome. Needless to say, they’ll need to stabilize the roof for this one as it might blow off. Home against the Saints on Monday Night. I just got goosebumps.
A Week Off
Beginning in week seven, the Falcons play four of five games at home (sandwiched around a BYE week) with their only road tilt against the Rams.
A note on BYE weeks and the NFL. I have never understood why the NFL won’t group all the BYE weeks together between weeks 7-10. They could have eight teams off each week and then the remaining 13 weeks would have a full slate of games.
As it stands now, we get BYE weeks starting in week four and not ending until week 10, giving us only 10 weeks of full schedule football.
It is such a huge advantage for a team who has their BYE week in week 10 vs. a team that has to take a week off in week four. It’s ridiculous and it needs to be changed.
And We’re Back
Back to the Falcons. Their BYE week is in week eight, a perfect time to heal injuries suffered in the first half of the season and prepare for the second half’s playoff push.
|Sept. 12||@ Steelers|
|Sept. 26||@ Saints|
|Oct. 10||@ Browns|
|Oct. 17||@ Eagles|
|Oct. 31||BYE Week|
|Nov. 11 (Thurs.)||Ravens|
|Nov. 21||@ Rams|
|Dec. 5||@ Buccaneers|
|Dec. 12||@ Panthers|
|Dec. 19||@ Seahawks|
|Dec. 27 (Mon.)||Saints|
Somewhere along the 17 weeks and 10,896 miles the Falcons travel this year, we will find out what this team is capable of. Are they the 11-5 team that made the playoffs in 2008? Are they the 9-7 team that struggled with injuries and sat home in January?
The Fan in me says 15-1!!! But let’s be realistic (or at least pretend to be). The games that worry me the most are at the Saints in week three, home against the 49ers in week four (because of the letdown factor) and on the road against the Eagles.
The last five games all look like victories for the Falcons with the Monday Nighter against New Orleans primed to be a HUGE game.
With this schedule, 11-5 looks to be a real possibility. If the Falcons’ pass defense is improved substantially, 12-4 is within reach.
I still like them to win the division and 11-5 should be enough to do that.
Factoids about the Schedule
The Falcons play the AFC North this year.
The Falcons will be playing five teams for the first time in the Mike Smith era. (Steelers, Browns, Bengals, Ravens, Seahawks)
The Saints and Panthers are the only teams on this year’s schedule the Falcons have a winning record against.
In Week two, the Falcons can exact revenge on the Cardinals for a Wild Card defeat in 2008.
The Falcons are 1-3 vs. the Saints since 2008. The three losses have been by a combined 15 points.
Former NFC West foe, the 49ers, play Atlanta again. Last year the Falcons ambushed them on their way to a 45-10 beatdown.
The Falcons (0-2) will look to beat the Kevin Kolb-led Eagles for the first time since 2008.
The Falcons close the season playing the Panthers twice in the last four weeks.
What do you think? Is 11-5 a decent goal? Are you thinking 13-3? Let me know in the comments how many wins the Falcons will have.