Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 34-21
Atlanta opens up week 1 against a new look Eagles squad. Old faces like Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy are gone and new faces like Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray are in. The Eagles seemingly regressed last season after winning the NFC East in 2013, so Chip Kelly decided to make major changes. However, it has yet to be determined whether all of this change will pay off. Bradford is coming off multiple knee surgeries and has still yet to prove himself in the NFL despite his tremendous talent. Murray is coming off the best year of his career behind one of the best lines in the NFL, but is coming to a team with an offensive line that has a few more flaws in their game than the Cowboys. The Eagles line lost Pro Bowl guard, Evan Mathis, so Murray will not be finding as many holes as he did in Dallas.
It has been a long time since Bradford has played in a regular season NFL game. On Monday night in the Georgia Dome on the opening weekend of the regular season, Bradford will be facing a Falcons defense ready to get after it. They have already shown signs of improvements in the pre-season, and Quinn seems to have gotten through to the players. The defense will play with a lot of fire and be fast and physical with a rowdy crowd behind them. It will be enough to force Sam Bradford to make a couple mistakes early and put the Eagles in an early whole. The Falcons will hold on and win, 34-21.
New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: MetLife Stadium, Meadowlands
Prediction: Falcons 30-24
The Falcons and Giants faced off last season at the same location. The Falcons held the lead going into the 4th quarter, but Eli Manning and company took over in the 4th quarter and defeated the Falcons 30-20. Not a lot of fond memories have been made in MetLife stadium thus far, but the Falcons have a great shot to go on the road and get their first win in the new MetLife stadium.
Coming off a victory in week 1 versus the Eagles, the Falcons will be looking to go 2-0 in their first road game of the season. The Giants are a tough team to beat at home, but a depleted Falcons team last season gave the Giants a run for their money. A much improved Falcons squad should be able to snag their first road victory of the season in the Meadowlands, 30-24.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: AT&T Stadium, Dallas
Prediction: Cowboys, 37-24
The Cowboys are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory. Tony Romo finally won a playoff game, although it did happen in very controversial style against the Detroit Lions. However, the Cowboys then turned around and lost in controversial fashion to the Green Bay Packers. The catch that was not stopped the Cowboys dream ride just short of the NFC Championship.
The Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray this offseason, who was perhaps the best running back in the NFL last season. Although, most people would say it was the line that was the cog to the Cowboys running game. The line is still intact, and the Falcons will have a tough time stopping the Cowboys running game.
This will likely be the Falcons first game in which their defense gets exposed. In the first two games, the defense will create problems for the lesser quarterbacks, but Romo and company will be able to move the ball on the improved Falcons defense. Expect the Cowboys to be the first team to beat the Falcons this season, 37-24.
Atlanta Falcons Vs. Houston Texans
Loacation: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 23-17
The Falcons return home to face J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans. The Texans are currently still figuring out who will be the starting quarterback for them on opening day, but by Week 4 either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallet should have full control of the position. Hoyer looks like he might get the nod due to his experience and relationship with head coach Bill O’Brien. The Falcons faced off with Hoyer when he was a member of the Browns last season. Hoyer struggled, but got the last laugh by leading a game winning field goal drive right down the Falcons throats.
The Texans have a stout defense, but the Falcons at home should find a way to put some points on the board. Meanwhile, the Falcons’ defense should be able to stop what will be a weak Texans offense this season. With weak quarterback play, the Texans will look to rely on their running game. However, star running back Arian Foster will not be on the field against the Falcons due to a groin injury. His replacement Alfred Blue is no slouch, but will not be enough to carry the Texans past Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. Falcons, 23-17.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Redskins
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 38-20
The Redskins are coming off a couple of horrific seasons in which their starting quarterback has been injured. Robert Griffin III looks to be ready to go this season, but there is certainly no guarantee he will be the starter by Week 5. Like Atlanta, the Redskins’ pass defense has been brutal for the past few seasons. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones should be in for a huge Week 5 against the Redskins.
If Robert Griffin III is healthy and in rhythm by week 5, this game could go a lot differently. However, he has missed most of the last two seasons and he should not be expected to lead this team to the playoffs this year. The Falcons should handle the Redskins easily at home, 38-20.
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Prediction: Saints, 27-24
Week 6 is the first match up between these two division rivals. The best two weeks of the regular season might be the two weeks the Falcons play the Saints, as the the atmosphere is wild and the games are always competitive. It is no secret the Saints have had the Falcons’ number since Hurricane Katrina, but perhaps last year was a sign of things to come. The Falcons defeated the Saints in a thrilling overtime game in Week 1, and then demolished the Saints in week 16, eliminating them from playoff contention.
The two wins last season will just add more fire to this already great rivalry. The Saints made a lot of big offseason moves this season. They sent superstar tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle for Max Unger and a first-round pick. Unger should significantly upgrade the Saints offensive line, but the loss of Jimmy Graham will be felt. The Saints also head into the 2015 with a healthy and dangerous secondary. Brandon Browner, Kenny Vaccarro, and Jarius Byrd highlight a loaded secondary that could give Matt Ryan and company fits.
Many people are writing the Saints off this upcoming season, but as long as Drew Brees is under center they are a dangerous team. Sean Peyton is a great NFL head coach and play caller and the two of them have turned the New Orleans organization around. This will be the featured game for Thursday Night Football, and the New Orleans crowd will be nosier than ever for the Falcons. Expect an extremely tight and physical game, but the Saints prevail at the end, 27-24.
Tennesee Titans vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville
Prediction: Falcons, 24-16
Ken Whisenhunt says Marcus Mariota will be the opening day starter for the Titans. It is unclear if he will still be the starter by Week 7, but whoever is under center for the Titans could be in for a long day. The Falcons and Titans faced off in the first week of the preseason, and it was not a pretty day for Marcus Mariota. He finished the day 7-8 passing for 94 yards, but that one pass was an interception. The Oregon product also had the ball stripped from him and taken to the end zone against the Falcons first-team defense. The Falcons jumped out to a 17-0 lead against the Titans and the Falcons starting defense looked fast and vicious.
This game will take place in Nashville, and the Titans, as well as Marcus Mariota, will perform a lot better than they did in the first preseason game. Winning on the road in the NFL is hard, so expect this game to be close for a long time, but the Falcons will prevail, 24-16.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 35-17
Like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston also struggled in his first stint in the preseason. He was 9 for 19 with an interception for the Buccaneers, but did rush for one touchdown. Winston looked uncomfortable all night against the Vikings, but it was the first preseason game and he has plenty of room to improve.
The Falcons took care of business last season against the division going 5-1. In their first meeting with the Buccaneers in the Georgia Dome, The Falcons obliterated the Bucs by a score of 56 to 14. It was an embarrassing night for the Buccaneers, and while it will not be that bad this time around, the Falcons will take care of business.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco
Prediction: 49ers, 24-16
The Falcons make their first and only trip out west in Week 9 against the 49ers. The Niners are coming off a very disappointing 8-8 season after reaching three straight NFC Championships. The situation has only gotten worse for the 49ers this offseason. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and the team split ways. The anchor to their defense and one of the best linebackers in the NFL, Patrick Willis, abruptly retired at 30-years old. Veteran running back Frank Gore departed in free agency to the Colts. Then to make things even worse Aldon Smith was arrested for a hit and run/DUI. The 49ers opted to release the star defensive end. This was just half of the impact guys they lost. The cornerstones of the organization that once seemed on the cusp of winning a Super Bowl are no longer there. Jim Tomsula steps in as the new head coach assigned to rebuild this organization. He may be a great hire, but this will likely not be the year he and his team see great results.
The Falcons, now sitting at 6-2, might come out west a little overconfident. The 49ers might not be the best team this season, but they will still be solid and have some veterans that will fight week in and week out. It looks like a perfect recipe for disaster. The 49ers upset the Falcons and ruin their west coast road trip, 24-16.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Indianapolis Colts
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Colts, 35-24
The Falcons will be hungry coming off a tough road loss and a bye week. The Colts are set to be one of the best teams on paper this upcoming season. Andrew Luck has proven himself to be an elite quarterback in the National Football League. He gets better every year, and if the Falcons’ defense is not on their toes at all times, Luck will make them pay. The Colts also added veteran receiver Andre Johnson to Luck’s arsenal. Johnson hasn’t been what he used to be, but he could be in for a resurgence now that he is catching balls from a terrific quarterback. Frank Gore has also been added to a group of underwhelming running backs. Gore is an aging veteran but has shown no signs of slowing down, as he has rushed over 250 carries for over 1,000 yards in each of the last 4 seasons.
The Falcons will be hyped for big time match-up at home versus a great Colts team, but how far can that take them? Atlanta will be a very solid team this year, but the Colts will be on another tier this upcoming season. Expect the Falcons to put up a valiant fight, but the Colts offense will outlast them at the end of the day. Colts, 35-24.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 28-24
Coming off two straight losses, the Falcons will be looking to get back in the win column versus the Vikings. The Vikings have struggled without Adrian Peterson on the field, but Peterson will be fresh and ready to go this upcoming season. He is the best running back of this generation and will be in for a monster season. Expect Peterson to be challenging the rushing record once again this season. However, the return of Adrian Peterson is not the only thing Vikings fans have to look forward to this season. Teddy Bridgewater is penciled in as their starting quarterback of the future. He showed glimpses of greatness last year, especially against the Falcons. In their week 4 matchup, Bridgewater was 19/30 for 317 yards and rushed for a touchdown. The Falcons could not stop this guy, as he led the Vikings up and down the field on their way to a 41-28 victory.
The Vikings will be an interesting team to watch this season. Their defense is also overlooked and could be one of the better units in the NFL. Expect them to lean a lot on Peterson and find ways to win some games that they probably should not. The Falcons will be in for a dog fight in week 12, but they will find a way to prevail and get back into the win column against the Vikings, 28-24.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay
Prediction: Falcons, 31-21
The Falcons meet the division rival Bucs for the second time this season in Week 13. By now Winston has had some time to get his feet wet in the NFL and has developed chemistry with his receiving core. However, the Bucs still lack the talent on both sides of the ball to compete with the Falcons. This game might be a little tighter than the first one because it is away from home, but the Falcons should cruise pass the Buccaneers in week 13, 31-21.
Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Prediction: Panthers, 31-20
While the Falcons have sort of been proclaimed the favorites to end up atop the NFC South standings, it has been the Panthers that have won the division the past two seasons. The Panthers defeated the Falcons in a Week 17 winner-take-all game at the Georgia Dome last season. The Panthers dominated both sides of the ball early and often on their way to a dominating 34-3 victory.
This is the first meeting between the two teams and it comes in Week 14. It is safe to say these two match ups in the last four weeks of the regular season will have huge postseason implications for the two sides. Cam Newton has had some big games against the Falcons in his career and might be in for another one in this game. Unfortunately for Cam, Panthers star wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, tore his ACL in practice this offseason. The news has to be heartbreaking for Panthers fans, as he was the cog in what was already a weak receiving core.
Despite injuries and the fact the Falcons may have more talent on paper, it will be the Panthers who find a way to win the Week 14 match up. Winning division games on the road is hard, and the Panthers defense will give Matt Ryan and company fits all afternoon. Expect a frustrating game in which the Falcons keep trying to claw back from an early deficit, but Cam Newton will answer the bell every time. Panthers, 31-20.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Atlanta Falcons
Location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville
Prediction: Falcons, 24-17
Jacksonville is coming off four straight seasons of failing to reach at least 6 wins. The Jaguars went 3-13 last year, but have high hopes that new starting quarterback Blake Bortles can help turn the organization around. The first year of Bortle’s career was a wild ride. He threw 12 interceptions in his first 6 NFL starts, but aside from the turnovers had some pretty good numbers. In his next 7 starts, Bortles only threw 5 interceptions, but did not throw the ball overall nearly as well. The Jaguars are hoping Bortles can put it together in year two, and become a solid NFL starting quarterback with a bright future.
The Jaguars defense is still a mess, and the team is not even close to start seriously competing, but these guys seem to sneak up and surprise some good teams every year. The Falcons need to go into EverBank Field focused and prepared, or the Jaguars could steal a victory on their home turf. The game will be closer than many people think, but the Falcons will edge out the Jags, 24-17.
Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 27-20
This is the second time in a three week span the Falcons face off with the Panthers. In the first matchup, the Panthers held on their home turf, but this time it is the Falcons turn to “defend the dome”. This Week 16 game will most likely have major playoff implications. The Falcons must have a lingering taste from their Week 17 defeat at home last season that knocked them out of playoff contention. Expect the Falcons to come out fired up and take care of business on their home turf. Falcons win, 27-20.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Prediction: Falcons, 34-30
The Saints have been slept on coming into this season. After their disappointing 2014 campaign, the team looks to bounce back and make it back to the playoffs. This Week 17 matchup with the Falcons could be for the NFC South division title. The Saints will likely be hovering around 9 or 10 wins at this point themselves. In this first game between these two teams, the Saints won in the SuperDome. The SuperDome has been an extremely hard place to win over the last 10 years, as the Saints thrive off the energy in that raucous building. However, the Falcons thrive off that same energy in the Georgia Dome and have been able to beat the Saints in 2 of the last 3 meetings in their home building. The game will be close as always, but the Falcons will get some key stops in the red zone to defeat the Saints, 34-30.
The Falcons have been given a terrific shot at getting back in the playoffs in 2015. After 2 disappointing seasons under Mike Smith, where it felt like the Falcons really underachieved, Dan Quinn steps in to try and put the pieces back together. I am on board with the Falcons being the favorites to win the NFC South. If Dan Quinn can mildy improve the defense this season, the Falcons have the most complete team in the division.
However, I am far from on board that the Falcons are anywhere near Super Bowl contenders this year. There are still plenty of question marks on both sides of the ball. The offensive line needs to improve mightily from last season if the Falcons want to be able to compete in the playoffs, and the moves to make that happen were not made this offseason. Hopefully the line can give Matt Ryan a little more time this season, but expect good defensive teams to get after Matt Ryan from the opening whistle. The defense has miles of room for improvement from last season, and Quinn will be able to fix some of that immediately, but the current defense is not nearly talented enough to compete with the top offenses in the NFL.
The Falcons will be a solid football team but they are still a second-tier NFL team. Teams like the Colts, Packers, Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Broncos and Seahawks are currently steps ahead of the Falcons organization. Atlanta will benefit from a very weak schedule this season and return to the playoffs in 2015. There will be no miracle Super Bowl run this year, but the improvements made by the new coaching staff will be showcased throughout the season. The Falcons are finally heading back in the right direction and the 2015 season should be a fun one to watch.