Atlanta Falcons: Surviving first four games is key for playoffs


One down, three to go. Surviving the first four games might clear the way for a playoff push for the Atlanta Falcons. Looking ahead at the schedule, it’s this opening quarter of the season that looks the most difficult stretch of the year.

Atlanta stunned Philadelphia with a 26-24 victory at the Georgia Dome in Week 1, but now faces three tough games in the coming weeks: at New York; at Dallas; Houston. Losing all of these, dropping to a 1-3 record, would leave little margin for error in the remaining 12 games. Realistically, it’s going to take at least nine, and possibly ten games to win the NFC South, so it’s important the Falcons start fast. Now compare the first quarter with the remaining three, and it starts to ease up, on paper at least.

Second quarter: Washington; at New Orleans; at Tennessee; Tampa Bay
Third quarter: at San Francisco; Indianapolis; Minnesota; at Tampa Bay
Fourth quarter: at Carolina; at Jacksonville; Carolina; New Orleans

In the second quarter of games, I see three very winnable games. The toughest of the four is on the road to New Orleans, but Atlanta of course won their a year ago. It’s unlikely the Falcons go 4-0 over this stretch, but 3-1 is perfectly realistic.

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Next up is a slightly tougher group. San Francisco, despite the losses of personnel this offseason, proved they are still a tough team to beat at home, but the game is far from as daunting as it would have been two years ago. Indianapolis will expect to beat Atlanta, but the final two provide the Falcons every chance of winning.

Three division games dominate the final four, which is never easy. But the good news is two of those are at home, with the other game taking place in Jacksonville. If the Falcons don’t win two games in each of these three quarters, something has gone wrong. For the sake of argument, let’s say they go 7-5 over this period. Now add the Eagles win and it’s 8-5.

Now let’s look at the upcoming three games again: at New York; at Dallas; Houston. How many would the Falcons need to win? I think two would be more than acceptable. Of course, this isn’t the way the NFL works. Nothing ever seems to go to plan and there are always upsets around the league.

But the Falcons need to take advantage of a softer schedule, which does begin with a tough opening quarter. The win over the Eagles is huge as many expected a loss, myself included. If the Falcons can go onto win two out of the next three and sit at 3-1 heading into a home game with the Redskins, the road ahead will look much less bumpy.

It’s early, but surviving this stretch could roll out the carpet to the postseason.