Second Four Weeks
Week 5: @Denver Broncos
Atlanta goes on their second cross country trip of the season in week 5, to take on the defending Superbowl champions. The Broncos will feature an underwhelming QB in former 7th round pick Trevor Siemian. The run game, behind Gary Kubiak’s own zone blocking scheme, looks poised to be the engine behind this Bronco offense.
The Denver defense was the best in the game last season, and despite the departures of DT Malik Jackson and LB Danny Trevathan, they look to be an upper tier defense once again this year. Superbowl MVP Von Miller still anchors this impressive unit.
Homer Outlook – The Falcons will be riding the momentum of another 4-0 start when they travel to Denver for a date with the defending champions. Von Miller looked like a man possessed in last year’s playoffs but Atlanta has one of the best Tackle combinations in the league to hold him at bay, in Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.
If the Falcons can contain CJ Anderson in the run game, then shutting down Denver’s offense becomes straightforward. Trevor Siemian will probably be nothing more than a game-manager: if you force him to beat you with his arm then that’s your best bet to win. Desmond Trufant should be able to keep up with Demaryius Thomas, Robert Alford likewise with Emmanuel Sanders.
Unfortunately even limiting Denver’s offense might not be enough to get the win. The Bronco defense will prove to be too much for Matt Ryan, especially considering the fact that Denver is one of few teams with a CB duo that can keep up with Julio Jones (Aquib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.).
Stopping CJ Anderson’s movement in a Gary Kubiak offense is also easier said than done.
Homer Prediction – Defeat (4-1)
Objective Outlook – The Denver Broncos may be without a really good QB, but even Trevor Siemian should prove to be an upgrade over the corpse that was Peyton Manning last season. Manning threw 17 interceptions last year (the league lead was 18), despite missing five games. His interception percentage was 5.10%: the highest in the league among QBs with at least 200 attempts.
Denver’s playoff run was on the back of its defense and run game. They will be a grind it out team once again this season, and that does not bode well for Atlanta. Teams that control the clock and force turnovers are the worst possible match-up for this Falcons team. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that the Broncos led the league in sacks last season.
Having to travel to “Mile High” is even more of an advantage for this Denver squad, not that they’ll really need it.
Objective Prediction – Defeat (2-3)
Week 6: @Seattle Seahawks
Atlanta doesn’t get much of a respite in this part of the schedule: going from hosting the defending NFC Champions (Carolina), to playing on the road against the defending Superbowl champions (Denver), and then traveling north for a date with the team that’s been the absolute class of the NFC since 2013 (Seattle).
This will be Dan Quinn’s homecoming, as he was the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks through those back to back Superbowl runs. Atlanta will more than likely go from Denver straight to Seattle, and practice there the week leading up to the game.
Marshawn Lynch retired, but Seattle’s run game was still strong in his absence (due to injury) last season. Thomas Rawls led the league in rushing yards per attempt (5.65).
Russell Wilson had the best season of his career (4024 passing yards, 34 TDs, 110.1 passer rating: all career highs). He finally made the step up from being a game manager to being one of the upper tier QBs in the league.
Homer Outlook – The Seahawks look scary, there’s no way around it. However, they do have a glaring weakness: their offensive line. Vic Beasley, Maurice Claiborne, Ra’Shede Hageman, Grady Jarrett, Brooks Reed and the rest of the front 7 must find a way to get to Russell Wilson, while also containing him inside the pocket. If they don’t, then it will be a long day for the defense.
The Seahawks’ defensive unit has always been the team’s strength: Seattle has had a top 2 defense each of the past three seasons (2013-2015; number 4 in 2012, and number 9 in 2011), and there’s no reason to expect a drop-off in that ranking.
Seattle had the best run defense in the NFL last season, and if they can take Devonta Freeman out of the picture then they will be able to really clamp down on Atlanta’s offense. Matt Ryan will be in for a long day if the Seahawks make his offense one dimensional (something they’re more than capable of doing).
Homer Prediction – Defeat (4-2)
Objective Outlook – Denver may have had the top ranked defense in the league last season, but Seattle’s defense remains the class of the NFL due to its sheer consistency (top 2 the past three seasons: number 1 in 2013 and 2014). Atlanta’s offense won’t have an easy time in this one.
Russell Wilson was the best QB in the league over the second half of the season. Seattle implemented a new spread offense during its week 9 bye week, and from that point forward Wilson had 26 TDs (1 rushing) and just 2 interceptions. Wilson can buy time even against a fierce pass-rush (something Atlanta does not have), and his quick release on short to intermediate passes makes it even harder to sack him.
The run game with Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael, and rookie CJ Prosise will wear the Falcon defense down, while Russell Wilson picks it apart through the air.
Seattle is just flat out a better team than Atlanta; and they’ll be playing at home, in front of the 12th man. The Falcon players might also be weary of all the travel they’ll have done in this two week stretch.
Objective Prediction – Defeat (2-4)
Week 7: vs. San Diego Chargers
The Falcons finally return home in week 7. And after having to go through the gauntlet in weeks 3-6, Atlanta plays host to the worst team on the schedule (when taking last year’s record into account).
The San Diego Chargers were not a good football team last season. They ranked 20th in total defense, 31st in total rushing yards (barely ahead of the last placed Detroit Lions), and QB Phillip Rivers had 13 interceptions thrown.
San Diego’s offensive line was among the worst in the league, but they hope that better health and continuity changes that this season.
RB Melvin Gordon enters his sophomore campaign with hopes for a bounce back season, after the abysmal rookie year he just had.
The Chargers played out a 4-12 record last year, and found themselves in the basement of the AFC West.
Homer Outlook – This should be one of the easiest win’s of the season for the Falcons. Atlanta will be able to control the clock, and the game, by grounding and pounding with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman: San Diego had the 5th worst run defense in the league last season.
With the birds controlling the clock, Matt Ryan won’t have to do much more than protect the football, and pick the Charger defense apart with the weapon that is Julio Jones.
Jason Verrett is a very good CB, but he won’t be able to keep up with Jones one on one. If San Diego brackets Jones, then Ryan will be able to take a page out of Phillip Rivers’ book and find Mohamed Sanu on underneath crossing routes.
The Chargers ran the ball at a lower percentage than any other team in the NFL last season. If Melvin Gordon can’t establish his presence in the ground game, and San Diego’s offense becomes one dimensional yet again, then the Atlanta defense will be able to force mistakes. The Falcons had the 10th most interceptions last season (15).
Homer Prediction – Victory (5-2)
Objective Outlook – Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan have long been thought of as QBs in the same tier. Both put up big passing statistics, both make some costly mistakes at times, and both need talent around them to win.
Where Matt Ryan will have the advantage in this match-up is that talent aspect: he has a much better offensive line, his team trots out a much better rushing attack, and he has a much better go-to receiver.
Maybe Melvin Gordon does bounce back this season, but even if he does, that still won’t counteract Atlanta’s advantage when it comes to sheer talent around the quarterback. Matt Ryan is in a better position to win this game.
Objective Prediction – Victory (3-4)
Week 8: vs. Green Bay Packers
Every year, about half the playoff field in the NFL changes: around half the teams that made the playoffs the year prior don’t find themselves in the postseason again. That’s just the unpredictability of the NFL. (Last season, that average did not play out, as only one-third of the playoff participants changed (4/12))
The Green Bay Packers are one of the special teams that have been consistent mainstays in the postseason over the years. The Packers have made seven straight playoff appearances (tied for the longest active streak; New England Patriots). With possibly the best QB in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, leading the attack, Green Bay is expected to be playing in January once again this season.
The loss of star WR Jordy Nelson, in preseason last year, hurt the Packers’ offense, as they failed to win the NFC North for the first time since 2010. Nelson is back this year, and Green Bay looks poised to top their division for a sixth time in seven seasons.
Homer Outlook – The Green Bay defense was average last year (in the same camp as the Falcons), so maybe Atlanta’s offense will be able to get off and running in this one.
Speaking of running, the Packers’ run defense was 21st in the league last season. To have any chance of winning this game, Atlanta will have to utilize a very effective ground game which would control the tempo and keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands.
Last time these two teams met, on a cold December night in Wisconsin, Julio Jones famously went off for 11 catches and 259 receiving yards: almost single handedly dragging the Falcons to victory in a shootout. There’s still nobody on this Green Bay team who can cover him.
To win this game, the birds will have to play mistake free football and dictate the tempo with a strong run game, while also needing Julio Jones to be at his very best once again. When you need everything to go right, it seldom does.
Aaron Rodgers always roasts the Falcons, and he seems poised to do so once again.
Homer Prediction – Defeat (5-3)
Objective Outlook – Aaron Rodgers is just brilliant. Last time he played against Atlanta, he went for 327 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. With Jordy Nelson back and RB Eddie Lacy in better shape, Rodgers looks primed for another MVP-type year.
The Falcons scored 37 points in the last meeting and that still wasn’t enough. With the Green Bay run game poised to take a step forward (thanks to Lacy’s P-90X), Atlanta wouldn’t win a shootout.
Objective Prediction – Defeat (3-5)
Next: Weeks 9-13