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