Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Michael Arkin: The Falcons come back into the 2017 season after the worst possible ending to the 2016 season. They head up to Chicago for the first time since opening there in 2011, where Brian Urlacher and his Bears pummeled Atlanta 30-12. Unfortunately for the Bears, the Falcons have a much better team coming up to Soldier Field this time around. Chicago was 3-13 last season, and have a very young and rebuilding team. Besides Chicago’s defense line, I expect Atlanta to dominate them in all facets of this game.
Matt Ryan should be able to eat this defense alive, as long as his offensive line can give him time. Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and Leonard Floyd are all active pass-rushers who can wreak havoc at times, but offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian should have a gameplan in order to limit those three players. Look for the offense to set the tone early and shut the doubters up.
The defense on the other hand is something that I truly am looking forward to watching against a low-fired offensive team in Chicago. Mike Glennon was signed and is most likely going to start Week 1, and look for Atlanta’s defense to dominate the ball and winning the turnover margin by two or three. Jordan Howard is a young and very solid running back, and as long as Atlanta can contain him, the defense should be able to get to Glennon and force turnovers.
The Falcons pummel the Bears 34-13 to start off the 2017 season.
Falcons Record: 1-0
Chase Irle: It is still baffling to me the Falcons did not get a Super Bowl rematch in the opening game of the season. The NFL chose to go with the Chiefs, rather than force the Falcons to relive their Super Bowl nightmare to begin the season. That might be a good thing for Atlanta, but I tend to believe every player and coach in that locker room is salivating at the opportunity to face off against the Patriots again.
So let’s get to the actual week one matchup. The Falcons get their first road test against Chicago. Despite being on the road and coming off the most disastrous Super Bowl collapse in history, do not expect any Super Bowl hangover here.
The offense is going to do it’s thing, but like Michael said, this thing is going to get out of hand early because of the Falcon’s defense. That side of the ball should be much improved for Atlanta, and the Bears are looking like a bottom five offense in the NFL coming into the season.
All Falcons to begin the season, 42-20.
Falcons record: 1-0
Atlanta Falcons Vs. Green Bay Packers
Chase Irle: Week one may lack some drama against what is expected to be a lowly Bears squad. That should not be the case in the Falcons home opener in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta routed Green Bay in last year’s NFC Championship game, jumping out to a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter and never looking back on their way to the Super Bowl.
They also played in week 8 of last year’s regular season, in which was a much more thrilling matchup.The Packers would score a touchdown and convert a two-point conversion to go up six, but the Falcons would respond with a dominant drive to score the game winning touchdown. This game should be much more like that one than the NFC Championship game.
The Packers defense should be much improved, mostly due to health, and some of their additions on that side of the ball in free agency and the draft. However, that unit is still going to have a hell of a time dealing with Matt Ryan and this Falcon offense. They could have put up sixty on the way to last year’s Super Bowl if they wanted to.
The key for Atlanta will be, as it always is against Green Bay, finding a way to stop that bad man, Aaron Rodgers. Despite Matt Ryan’s MVP season, Rodgers is easily the best QB in the league right now. He should have a terrific line protecting him and a load of weapons to throw to. It will be the first test for this up-and-coming Falcons defense, and perhaps the hardest one they will have to face all season.
When it comes down to it this should be a suspenseful game that comes down to the last possession. I think it actually winds up being a little lower scoring than people think, and the Falcons defense is able to get enough stops at home to win the first ever game in their spectacular new stadium, 26-24.
Falcons Record: 2-0
Michael Arkin: I have the Falcons beating the Bears handily in Week 1, and now here comes a test right out of the gate for this team. In Week 2, they open up the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the runner-up in the NFC in 2016, the Green Bay Packers. This will be nationally televised on Sunday Night Football on NBC (Al and Chris are the best on TV), and this might be one of the most viewed games of the 2017 year.
Aaron Rodgers will lead his team into Atlanta for the first time since getting dismantled in the NFC Championship, as he and his team will have revenge on their minds. Rodgers is one of the most elite quarterbacks we have in the NFL today, and he will have his receiving core back, while also adding veteran tight end Martellus Bennett. The Packers will be much more healthy this time around, and the will have a much better gameplan heading into Atlanta.
I do not expect the Falcons to offensively dominate the Packers like they did before, as previously stated many of their players were injured. Green Bay will be getting many of their guys back, and will have a full proof plan in stopping Julio Jones. Expect to see Jones doubled covered, whether the Packers go man or zone. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might have to play over the top of Jones in order to try to limit his looks from Ryan.
Just like the week before, the Falcons offensive line will have their hands full with pass-rushing specialists such as Nick Perry, Mike Daniels, and Clay Matthews. Daniels is a handful in the inside, and he might be seeing many double teams. Matt Ryan will play a great game, but I see Austin Hooper having a career type of game Sunday Night, and teams will see the Falcons have a young tight end that is not just very versatile, but also a game-changer.
This will be a close game, and Aaron Rodgers had the ball in Week 8 of 2016 to come back and try for a field goal. His team turned it over on downs and Ryan ended up taking a knee to run the clock out. It will come down to Ryan, as he will have to lead his team down the field for Matt Bryant to attempt a game winning field goal.
Prediction: Falcons 28, Packers 27
Falcons Record: 2-0
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions
Michael Arkin: Standing at 2-0 right now, Atlanta will head to the Motor City to face the Detroit Lions. Many think the Falcons will win this game and move on to Buffalo with ease. They should win this game, but Detroit has the offensive firepower to make this game harder than most think. Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was not born with a right arm, in fact he actually was born with a cannon to overtake the arm.
Stafford has weapons around him and they can be game-changers. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Eric Ebron can make a defense go crazy, but the Falcons will bolster a secondary that can be able to give fits to opposing offensive teams. Jones’ potential was showcased early in the 2016 NFL season, as he almost reached 500 yards after the first four games. Tate came on later in the year and showcased his athleticism, while Ebron will be counted on to be big red-zone target.
This game will likely be close, and the Falcons might be trailing at halftime. But I see Atlanta being able to come out in the second half and put the game away. Detroit has an average defense, and that is not a way to beat one of the best offensive teams in the NFL. Freeman and Coleman will both have 100 yard rushing days, and Atlanta will be able to put the Lions away to head back home undefeated.
Prediction: Atlanta 31, Detroit 20
Falcons Record: 3-0
Chase Irle: Coming off a tough, grind-it-out-game, in the first ever matchup at Mercedes-Benz stadium, the Falcons could be looking at a slight hangover against one of the more underrated teams around the NFL. The Lions led the NFC North for the majority of the season last year, and people around the league are looking for Matt Stafford to take a similar step that Matt Ryan did last season.
It has all the makings for an upset, but the problem is I do not think their offense has enough firepower to keep up with the Falcons. Despite the Lions having a formidable defense, Atlanta should be able to put up 30+ points. I have a lot of confidence in Matt Stafford, and Jim Bob Cooter is one of the most creative offensive coordinators in the league today, but the Atlanta secondary has too much talent to be consistently beat by the Lions’ receivers over and over again. If the Lions were to poise a real threat in this one they would have to control the game on the ground, something they are not very good at.
Like almost every team in the NFL, Dan Quinn has emphasized the turnover battle and wants to lead the league in turnover margin. This defense was opportunistic a year ago, but look for them to be even better in this area this season. Matt Stafford has been known to make a mistake or two, especially when he is playing catch-up. Atlanta plays clean, wins the turnover margin, and sends the Detroit fans home disappointed on their way to their second 3-0 start of the Dan Quinn era.
Prediction: Atlanta 30, Detroit 17
Falcons record: 3-0
Atlanta Falcons vs. Buffalo Bills
Chase Irle: I have Atlanta getting by 3-0 at this point, but at the very least, should be 2-1 heading into their week 4 matchup with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills aren’t a very flashy team but should grind out a record of around .500 again this season behind their defense and run game. The quarterback position will continue to be a question mark, with Tyrod Taylor looking to prove his worth this season, but the reality is this Buffalo offense is not explosive enough to put a bunch of points up against an improved Falcons defense.
The only way Buffalo can win this game on the road is if they control the game with the run and have an unbelievable defensive performance. This Bills rushing attack is legit, as they led the league last season in rushing and YPC at an impressive 5.3 clip. LeSean McCoy has been one of the best backs in the league for years and is coming off perhaps the best year of his career. McCoy will have a big game, but the Falcons should and will make Taylor beat them in this one.
One thing to watch for early on in the season will obviously be Chris Chester’s replacement, whoever that may be. If that turns out to be an issue, this game gets a lot more interesting. The Bills defensive line is no joke with pass rushers like Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson on the outside and Marcell Dareus rushing up the middle.
In Buffalo, the Bills might have a shot to pull off the upset. But in Atlanta, I do not see their one dimensional offense putting up enough points to keep up with the Falcons. Matt Ryan should be able to take advantage of a secondary that lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots, as the Falcons cruise to a 4-0 start to the season.
The revenge tour is in full effect
Prediction: Falcons 27 Bills 19
Falcons record: 4-0
Michael Arkin: Every year there is at least a game that you’re watching the Falcons and just thinking, “what the hell?” Remember last year’s Chargers game, where not only were the Chargers one of the worst teams in football, but riddled with injuries? Somehow, San Diego found a way to win that game in overtime, even with the Falcons jumping out to 27-10 lead in the first half at home.
These kind of games happen, and as much as I would love to believe that this Falcons team, as talented as they are, could go 16-0, it isn’t happening. Tyrod Taylor is an underrated quarterback that I actually really like. He needs to have a big year to land the huge contract he deserves, and this game against the Falcons may be one he can point to at the end of the year. Atlanta has had trouble with scrambling QBs in the past, and I think Taylor and McCoy will prove to be major problems for this Falcons team that may be looking ahead to the bye week.
The Falcons lost decisively to the Eagles in their game before their bye week last season. That was the only time they lost decisively all season. The Bills have a similar team with a tough defense, and the best running game in football. They control the game on the ground, and surprise the Falcons for their first loss of the season.
Prediction: Falcons 20, Bills 26
Falcons record: 3-1
Atlanta Falcons Vs. Miami Dolphins
Chase Irle: This game might have just gotten a lot easier to pick, as the Dolphins fear at this moment that they could be without their starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, for the entire season. The Dolphins had to go through this last year, when Tannehill went down with a knee injury late in the season, and losing him again would just be a horrific blow to the organization.
Without Tannehill, it looks like Miami will turn to Jay Cutler as the starting QB. While Cutler is probably better than their alternative, Matt Moore, the Dolphins have no shot against a Falcons team coming of a bye and at home. This was going to be a tough upset for Miami to pull off anyways, but becomes impossible without their starting quarterback.
Expect the Falcons to come out with a terrific offensive gameplan, putting up points early and often. The defense will be able to completely focus on running back Jay Ajayi, who will now be the focal point of their offense if he was not already. Ajayi is a physical runner, but without a passing offense to keep the Falcons honest, this Atlanta front seven should be up to the task.
It is unfortunate that the Dolphins will be unable to reach their max potential once again this season, but that is not going to stop the Falcons from pouring it on. They begin the game with an opening drive touchdown, and never look back, clobbering the Dolphins in their first back from their bye week.
Prediction: 38-16 Falcons
Falcons record: 5-0
Michael Arkin: Ryan Tannehill will not be the starting quarterback of this game, and it truly does make a dramatic difference in the way of predicting this game. Tannehill has developed into a very solid quarterback, and is light years ahead of Matt Moore or Jay Cutler. Coming off a bye, this Falcons team should be able to not just beat Miami, they will be looking to decimate the Dolphins.
Miami has a defensive line that can trouble any opposing offense. Atlanta’s offensive line must be ready to play and be able to control the trenches. This could be one of the best defensive lines in all of football led by Ndamukong Suh, who has a reputation of not only dominating opponents, but making sure he’s left his mark on them. Expect Matt Ryan to call for protection wherever Suh lines up.
Marquand Manuel and Dan Quinn will likely dedicate the defensive gameplan around Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who had a breakout season in 2016. Not having Tannehill back there to make opposing defenses respect the passing game will make life much more difficult for Ajayi. The Falcons will contain Ajayi and cut off the corners so he can’t break outside for a long run.
Coming off a bye, the Falcons should be able to dictate the way this game is played. The coaches should be more than well-prepared in facing Miami. Atlanta will win this game.
Prediction: 31-7 Falcons Win
Falcons Record: 4-1
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
Chase Irle: Ah, the moment we are all waiting for as Falcons fans. The rematch of last year’s Super Bowl that the Falcons undoubtedly blew against a lesser Patriots squad. Yes, I said it, and now they get their chance at revenge in Foxbourough, where Tom Brady has been nearly unbeatable over his career.
The two teams will both look different than they did in the Super Bowl. The Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski back, and the Falcons will feature Desmond Trufant this time on defense. Beyond that, both teams had terrific offseasons adding several key pieces. New England brought in Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore among others, while the Falcons brought in tons of help across the defensive line like Takkarist McKinley and Dontari Poe.
Unless the Patriots offensive line improves light years from their Super Bowl performance, they could still be in big trouble in this one. The Falcons accumulated five sacks in the Super Bowl against Brady, one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack. That was with a mediocre, at best, pass rush. This season, the Falcons should feature one of the most fierce pass rushes in the league behind last year’s sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. and this year’s first-round pick Takkarist McKinley. Brady does not get hit often, but I see him getting hit a lot in this one, especially in a revenge game.
Despite an improved defense, this is still Tom Brady and the Patriots, and Brady will have a lot more weapons to work with this time around. Gronkowski was not in the Super Bowl last year and is arguably the best offensive weapon in the entire NFL. His presence will be a nightmare, but the Falcons will likely gameplan around him. The problem with that is Brady now has not just one but two speedy receivers on the outside with the addition of Brandin Cooks. Cooks and Edelman can roast one-on-one coverage against the best of secondaries. Not too mention, Dwayne Allen can also line up with Gronkowski in the Patriots infamous two tight-end sets. The Falcons pass rush better be up to the challenge, or we could end up watching a replay of the second half of the Super Bowl.
Unless Matt Ryan and Steve Sarkisian are not on the same page, this offense should still be the best in the league next season. The Patriots, even with additions like Stephen Gilmore will have no chance of stopping it for sixty minutes. It took multiple injuries to the offensive line for the Patriots defense to begin having success, so providing both teams are healthy at this point, I expect a pretty high scoring affair, even with two improved defenses.
I would like to say the Falcons win this one, but on a possibly cold Boston night, I do not see Ryan being able to go score for score with Brady. The Falcons defense struggles to deal with the Patriots weapons, and the team as a whole does not play up to the standard of the brotherhood. The Falcons have revenge on their mind’s, but the only thing that is going to put that to rest is a Lombardi Trophy, not a regular season win against the Patriots. They come up short in this one, but it will be a loss that pays off down the road.
Falcons 32, Patriots 35
Falcons season record: 5-1
Michael Arkin: Everyone will be watching this game. The Super Bowl rematch on Sunday Night. The Falcons will head to Foxbourough in hopes of not avenging such a painful loss, but to make a mark on the NFL by going up to New England and beating them.
Dan Quinn will need to make sure his troops are fired up, but to not be too emotional heading in. The true leaders of Atlanta will step up in this game, led by 2016 MVP Matt Ryan. Ryan will face an atmosphere he rarely has been apart of, as Tom Brady and his Patriots are an unbelievable team at home. Ryan and Sark must have a gameplan to weather the storm and ease into the swing of things.
Playing too aggressive sometimes will come back to bite you in the butt (Kyle Shanahan), but it can also get you to a point where you can still continue playing hard-nosed while also using diligence. Ryan does not need to force the issue if nothing is open, and hit check-downs to Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, as they can catch well out of the backfield. Freeman played well the few times he got the ball the last time he played the Patriots, and he should be getting the ball much more come this day.
Tom Brady will tell you that the Falcons defense gave him fits the last time they played, but obviously he found a weakness in the defense. This time around, Atlanta will (hopefully) have Desmond Trufant back from injury, as he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The Patriots will also get superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury, and he must be dealt with at all times whenever he is on the field. Atlanta added some signings in the offseason and used early draft selections on the defense in hopes to not only help continue to build that side of the ball, but to have depth.
Now Chase and I have had our discussions about the Super Bowl, and we have talked much about this game in Week 7. We both agree the Falcons roster is absolutely loaded, but we debate how this team will perform in Foxbourough. I just have that feeling that this game has been circled since February 5, and the team obviously will never forget what happened the last time these teams have met. I think special teams will play an important role in being able to put the offense in good field position. Brady will put up points, but I see Ryan leading the charge at the end of the night. The Falcons will squeeze out a narrow victory, and make a statement to the NFL that if there is a Super Bowl hangover, they breezed right through it.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Patriots 27
Falcons season record: 5-1
Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets
Chase Irle: The Falcons will stay in the northeast following their Super Bowl rematch for their fourth and final game against the AFC East.
The Jets are largely expected by many to be the worst team in the league this season. They unloaded all of their weapons on offense, and are left with no quarterback and a group of practice squad receivers. Matt Forte still remains in the backfield, but it is going to be hard for him to get much going with nothing around him supporting him.
The defense of the Jets is in a much better state, but they are not going to be able to stop the Falcons for sixty minutes, and I see them on the field a lot in this one. Matt Ryan will not have to do too much, as I see the Atlanta defense scoring a couple times in this one.
If you are a Jets fan in New York, it is going to be a long season, and this game might be the worst of it. Falcons roll, 42-7.
Falcons record: 6-1
Michael Arkin: There is no reason I will waste your time on this. Falcons roll over the worst team in the NFL, who in fact have a chance to go 0-16 this season.
Falcons record: 6-1
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Chase Irle: If you have been keeping track, I have the Falcons at 6-1 to this point. It may seem like a forgone conclusion that they make the playoffs if they are 6-1 come week 9, but remember they were 6-1 in Dan Quinn’s first season as head coach and failed to make the playoffs, finishing 8-8 on the season.
A lot of those problems that year came from inside the division where they finished 1-5. The Panthers mark the first division opponent of the season, and let’s get right down to it, this will be a much better team than we saw last year. The Super Bowl clearly had an effect on the Panthers last season, and while I am not a firm believer in the Super Bowl hangover and do not think the Falcons will experience one, the Panthers are proof it can be a problem.
This game has “TRAP” written all over it. The Falcons will be playing their third road game in a row and play on primetime against the Dallas Cowboys the following week. Throw in the fact that this is a fierce division rivalry, and the Falcons could be in serious trouble in week 9.
We have seen the underdog conquer multiple times in recent history in this particular rivalry. Obviously, the Falcons upset the Panthers quest for perfection two seasons ago, winning at home 20-13. But the Panthers beat the Falcons back in 2012 at Bank of America Stadium when Atlanta was 11-1 and Carolina was a lowly 3-9 at the time. This rivalry can get heated, so throw out the records and get ready for a fun one.
When the day comes, I expect this to be a low scoring affair. The Falcons high-powered offense will have a tough time getting going against an improved Panthers defense. If the Falcons offensive line is not playing up to the level it did a year ago, this Panthers front seven could be a real problem. Carolina has the best defensive line in the division, and with a linebacking core led by Luke Keuchley, the Panthers should find themselves back in the playoff mix behind an improved defense.
On the other side, Cam Newton has had games against Atlanta where he has been an absolute superstar, but also had several duds against the dirtybirds. But at home in a game where a lot could be on the table, expect to see the best form of the former MVP. That being said, I do still think it will be very hard for the Panthers to score against what will be a very good Falcons defense. Carolina added some weapons and especially speed on the offensive side, but unfortunately will be up against the fastest defense in the NFL.
It pains me to say it, but I think Carolina squeaks out a victory here. It will be a huge game at home for the team after being embarrassed by the Falcons twice last season. Like most teams, they will have Atlanta circled on their calendar and that is what will play the biggest difference. With the Falcons playing their final of three straight road games, they play one of their worst games of the season and fall in Carolina.
Prediction: Falcons 16, Panthers 23
Falcons season record: 6-2
Michael Arkin: You ever hear of the notorious “trap game?” The trap game basically means when a better overall team has their mint on a previous big game or future game, while overlooking the opponent in front of them. No offense to the Panthers, but the Falcons are a much more complete football team than Carolina. The problem though is I have a feeling that Atlanta will not match the intensity Carolina will come with this week.
Cam Newton has all the intangibles to be one of the best quarterbacks year in and year out. I mean look at the guy, he’s built like an athletic tight end with a cannon as an arm. He can run through you, around you, over you, while also being able to throw the ball anywhere he pleases. I just do not think he has the mindset that many great quarterbacks have, as Newton does not seem to be the best leader around. But Newton has been able to give the Falcons fits over the years and has a lot more weapons at his disposal this season.
Christian McCaffrey will likely be the starting running back in Carolina, and the Falcons defense will have their hands full trying to contain him. He also has Greg Olsen, one of the best tight ends, and Newton has always found a way to get the ball to him. Olsen had a big game against Atlanta last year, and I see him having another big one in Week 9.
The Panthers do in fact have a very solid defensive unit. Luke Kuechly bolsters his linebacking core with Kawann Short manning his big guys in the trenches. Kuechly is one of the best linebackers in the game, and Short has been a disruptive force in both the run and pass game. The secondary is the weak link on this Panthers defense, but their front seven is scary talented. That talent will be able to contain Ryan and the high-flying Falcons offense in a dud of a game, as the Falcons drop a game in the division.
Prediction: Carolina 24, Atlanta 13
Falcons season record: 6-2