Atlanta Falcons game by game predictions: Weeks 1-8

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Week 1

The Falcons open up at home with a pivotal matchup against the Seattle Seahawks — a team many believe will be in the playoffs this year. Russell Wilson put up a season deserving of an MVP in 2019 and is once again a favorite to win the award. He also has more help than he has had over the last few years — both on offense and defense — and Seattle could still add a player like Jadeveon Clowney, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. But either way, the Seahawks will be an incredibly tough matchup for the Falcons in the always unpredictable Week 1.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

To put in perspective just how consistent the Seahawks have been, they’ve had a record above .500 every year since 2012, and I’d be shocked if that didn’t continue. Pete Carroll has built a machine out west, and they are led by one of the best quarterbacks in football, who doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. Their defense keeps improving, and their offense is finally starting to put things together along the line while also featuring a pretty good one-two punch at receiver with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.

These two teams met last year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with Seattle jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the first half. The Falcons were able to claw back and make it look respectable but still fell 27-20. However, Matt Ryan did not play in that game, and it was before Atlanta made a bevy of positive defensive changes. Still, I don’t trust the defense enough, or the Falcons track record in week one — which has been abysmal since 2016. It’s a toss-up, but I give the Seahawks a slight edge.

Seahawks 27, Falcons 24

Record: 0-1

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Matt Schaub famously showed he still had it last year, almost throwing for 500 yards against Seattle in the only start Matt Ryan missed in 2019. Seattle is likely to be without Jadeveon Clowney, who’s number Jarran Reed has already taken. With L.J. Collier being a massive first round bust and their first-round pick this year being questionable at best — I think Atlanta has a leg up on Dan Quinn’s old squad. You always have to be aware of the best linebacker in football — and Hayden Hurst will be put to the test immediately, with Bobby Wagner covering him. Russ is going to be Russ, but I think Atlanta wins this one and makes a statement to begin the year. 

Falcons 38, Seahawks 28

Record: 1-0

Week 2

After the Falcons play a tough Seahawks team at home to open the season, things do not get any easier as they travel to Dallas in Week 2. Right now, Vegas has Atlanta listed as a seven-point underdog in Jerry World. Although it’s worth noting, Cowboys lines are usually inflated due to their rabid fan base, especially early in the season. Regardless, it is going to take a team clicking on all cylinders to squeak out a win in their first road game of the year.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

I didn’t mean to be negative in my Week 1 prediction, but the Falcons track record to start the season is not very inspiring. They may be viewed as much bigger underdogs against the Cowboys, but I like the matchup better. It should also be viewed as a must-win if they do indeed lose to Seattle, because the past data for teams that start the year 0-2 suggests the Falcons would be toast, especially considering how tough their schedule is to end the season.

I think Atlanta’s offense can find a groove against Dallas, running up around 30 points, and while I like the Cowboys offense, the Falcons should be able to come up with some stops against Dak Prescott, who isn’t the same caliber of QB as Russell Wilson. I have a lot of confidence in Atlanta’s rush defense this season, with guys like Marlon Davidson and Dante Fowler in the fold, and as long as they can keep Ezekial Elliot from running wild, I like their chances on the road against the Cowboys.

Falcons 30, Cowboys 23

Record (1-1)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

This is a tricky matchup; I think it favors Atlanta in some areas but is very questionable in others. Dallas just lost Robert Quinn but gained Aldon Smith, who is a MASSIVE question mark. They also could not re-sign Byron Jones, which will allow Atlanta to exploit matchups in the pass-game (pending they don’t trade for Jamal Adams before this game). Travis Frederick, arguably their best player, is retired. However, Ezekiel Elliot could spell problems for the Falcons. CeeDee Lamb joins an already stacked receiving corps with Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper, but the X Factor here is Prescott. He’s not Russell Wilson, and it will be up to the Falcons to control the run game, eat up some clock, and make him beat them. Elliott ran for 200 yards on Atlanta last time these teams met — that can’t happen again. If Todd Gurley and Co. can keep Atlanta’s offense chugging on the ground, Atlanta has an excellent opportunity to steal a road win.

Falcons – 28 Cowboys – 17

Record: 2-0

Week 3

The Falcons head back home after a brief one-game road trip to face the Chicago Bears in Week 3 — the first game they are favored in, according to Vegas; albeit, only by a point. The Bears massively underachieved last season but still possess a ton of talent on defense with a new quarterback under center (probably) in Nick Foles.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

The Bears didn’t trade for Nick Foles and take on his contract for him to be a backup. After last season, and rightfully so, they are moving on from Mitch Trubisky unless he makes dramatic improvements this offseason, which is going to be especially tough because of the coronavirus. Come 2021, I expect Trubisky in a different uniform, as Chicago declined his fifth-year option. With that being said, Foles and their defense might be enough to carry them back to the playoffs this season.

It wasn’t long ago that Chicago’s defense was one of the most feared in the league. They won 12 games on the way to becoming NFC North champions just two years ago and were still fourth in total defense last year. There is no such thing as a free win in the NFL, but for fans expecting this to be a cakewalk at home, think again. Chicago has a front seven that can shut down Atlanta’s running game, making life difficult for Matt Ryan. The offensive line will have to be up for the challenge, or the Falcons could find themselves in a hole early in the season, something they cannot afford. However, I have a little faith in Atlanta’s defense slowing down Chicago’s offense as well.

Nick Foles is an upgrade over Mitch Trubisky, but not by much. The Bears didn’t have much of a running game last year, and I don’t see that changing this season. Week 3 won’t be as high-scoring as the first two games of the year, but I like the Falcons to figure out a way to win at home.

Falcons 23, Bears 16

Record (2-1)

Week 4

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Like Dallas, Chicago is a team that matches up very strangely with Atlanta. To quote Big Cat, “The Bears offense kills the Bears defense.” Chicago has so much talent on defense — Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller, Roquan Smith, and Eddie Jackson, to name a few. That should be a problem for the Falcons. However, when Mitch Trubisky (or Nick Foles) and the offense goes three and out every time — it doesn’t matter. Foles was terrible for Jacksonville last season. Mitch Trubisky is a bottom three starter in the NFL. I had David Montgomery on my fantasy team last year, but Matt Nagy didn’t utilize him properly. Tarik Cohen is good in space, but it doesn’t matter when the offense doesn’t create any. Kyle Long has also retired, which puts a massive dent in their offensive line. I see this one being a bit of a struggle in the first half… but the Falcons will pull away on an anemic Chicago offense to put them at 3-0. Bold prediction for this game — Hayden Hurst goes for over 100 yards and 2 TDs, but he won’t recreate Austin Hooper’s nasty stiff arm.

Falcons – 31 Bears – 13

Record (3-0)

Week 4

The Falcons have one of their two primetime matchups scheduled for Week 4, as they travel to Lambeau to take on the Green Bay Packers. Matt Ryan has had a lot of success against Aaron Rodgers over the last five years, but all of his wins have come at home. Playing against Rodgers at Lambeau is a different story. The Falcons haven’t won at Green Bay since 2008 when they squeaked out a 27-24 victory in Matt Ryan’s rookie season. Since, Atlanta has lost three straight at Lambeau, with their most recent loss coming in 2018 by a score of 34-20.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

Going to Lambeau and picking up a victory has been one of the toughest things to do over the last 20 or so years. However, it’s much easier to accomplish earlier in the year than later, so I’m glad this game is taking place in early October.

The Packers may have finished last season 13-3, but they never had the feel of a team that was that dominant. They won a lot of close games and eventually were blown out by the 49ers in the NFC Championship. And instead of bolstering their roster for their final few years of Aaron Rodgers’ career, they drafted Jordan Love in the first round and a bunch of pieces that won’t help their passing game. The Packers are now a run-first team under Matt LaFleur, and I don’t imagine Rodgers is too happy about it. I could see them imploding sooner rather than later, but this will still be ultra-challenging for the Falcons to pull out a win.

Typically, the matchups between these two teams have turned into shootouts, but I don’t see that this time around. While the Packers offense has changed to a run-first style, scoring fewer points, their defense has begun to turn the corner. I imagine that will create some trouble for Matt Ryan, especially if it is a cold-weather game, where he has traditionally struggled. The Falcons will stay competitive, unlike their last matchup, and it could come down to a last-second field goal, but I can’t give them the edge, given their track record in Green Bay.

Packers 24, Falcons 20

Record (2-2)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

The most fraudulent 13-3 team in NFL history was notably exposed by the Niners in the NFC Championship last season. Aaron Rodgers is not who he used to be, and probably still has nightmares of what the Falcons did to him in the 2016 playoffs. However, these aren’t the 2016 Falcons, but I don’t see Green Bay as much of contender either. What they are is a team with a smart coach and a stout run game. That will give Atlanta some issues. The 2016 Packers didn’t have Matt LaFleur (Atlanta did), Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, or Darnell Savage, and Kenny Clark was only a rookie. Green Bay’s defense and pass rush is much improved. Atlanta receives their first loss at Lambeau in a heartbreaker.

Packers 31, Falcons 30

Record (3-1)

Week 5

The Falcons enter Week 5 on a short week after playing the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Thankfully, for Atlanta, it’s a home game against Carolina. If the Falcons have any chance of winning the NFC South, they have to pounce on their two games against the Panthers, who look to be the cellar dwellers of the division. Luckily, they are 7-1 against Carolina in their last eight contests. However, this is a new regime, and Cam Newton is not around. While many analysts have the Panthers going 3-13 or 4-12, they could surprise many under Matt Rhule.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

I’m not one that believes this game will be a pushover. Division contests are always challenging, and the Panthers might be right in the thick of things heading into Week 5, so the effort is going to be there. Carolina also has a lot of offensive firepower, and we don’t know how good Teddy Bridgewater can be. Toss Joe Brady into the mix — the mastermind behind LSU’s historic offense — and the Panthers could be a formidable team.

With that being said, there’s also the possibility Matt Rhule is in way over his head, and Teddy Bridgewater is nothing more than a game-manager. The Panthers defense shouldn’t scare anyone, especially the Falcons offense, so as long as Atlanta can re-focus on a short week, they should be able to take care of business.

Falcons 34, Panthers 23

Record (3-2)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Carolina is what they are at this point — a bottomfeeder. They have Joe Brady in the mix now, but other than Christian McCaffery, Curtis Samuel, and DJ Moore — they aren’t a threat offensively. Their defense is very young and is now short one, Luke Kuechly. I think Carolina is a bit better than most experts believe, but they’re getting swept by the Falcons (again).

Falcons 45, Panthers 10

Record (4-1)

Week 6

After a home game with Carolina, the Falcons hit the road again for their third game against the NFC North, this time against the Minnesota Vikings. Atlanta knows first-hand how tough it is to pull out a win at U.S. Bank Stadium, as they opened the season there last year, and the game was over by halftime. Hopefully, they are a little more prepared this time around since the game is taking place in the middle of the year.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

The Vikings may not be the NFC’s best team, but they always put a well-disciplined product on the field and have the Falcons number. Minnesota cruised to a 28-12 victory in Week 1 last year, and that score looks a lot closer than it actually was. They’ve also won four straight in the series — two at home and two on the road. Mike Zimmer has been brilliant in scheming against Julio Jones, one of the only coaches who has been able to do so, forcing Matt Ryan to beat them with someone else. He hasn’t been able to do so thus far, combining for just 21 points in their last two matchups.

Offensively, the Falcons shouldn’t be too worried about Kirk Cousins beating them, but Dalvin Cook had a field day against Atlanta last year. Dan Quinn should have all his troops focused on defending the run, forcing Cousins to make plays with his arm. If Atlanta can’t stop Cook, they have zero chance of winning on the road. If they can, however, they might be able to pull out a critical win. The Vikings parted ways with Stefon Diggs, and I love their new wide receiver, Justin Jefferson, as much as anyone, but he won’t be able to immediately replace that production, making things even more difficult for Cousins. Still, I think Minnesotta’s run-game and Mike Zimmer’s ability to gameplan for the Falcons offense shines through, as the Vikings home field plays a significant factor.

Falcons 20, Vikings 27

Record (3-3)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Perhaps the most frustrating game of last season was also the season opener. Dalvin Cook ran wild on the Falcons defense, and Kirk Cousins only had to complete eight passes for 98 yards to secure the win. This time around, Atlanta has to lock up the run game to have success. Minnesota is short Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes, but they’re still a complete team. Mike Zimmer gameplans well for the Falcons once again, and Atlanta drops their 2nd game of the season, while the Vikings make it five in a row vs. the Falcons

Falcons 21 Vikings 31

Record (4-2)

Week 7

Following a tough road matchup at Minnesota, Atlanta comes back home to face their fourth and final NFC North foe, and it should be the easiest of the bunch. The Lions come into Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Week 7, hoping to turn things around after a miserable 2019, which saw their quarterback Matthew Stafford miss most of the season.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

I have the Falcons at 3-3 thus far, and with how difficult the schedule is to end the year, this is a must-win game at home, coming off a loss. Matt Patricia is entering his third year as the Lions head coach, and if things don’t turn around substantially, he will likely be on his way out. I don’t think this Detroit team will be nearly as bad as they were last year, especially with Matt Stafford returning. Desmond Trufant and rookie Jeff Okudah form a formidable cornerback duo, and they have some talent across the defensive line to cause some havoc. This won’t be a shoo-in, but the Falcons defense steps up, and the offense makes enough critical plays to win a game they absolutely must have to keep up in the playoff race.

Falcons 28, Lions 24

Record (4-3)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Matt Patricia might have the hottest seat in the NFL (besides Dan Quinn). With numerous reports and player accounts of him losing control of the locker room, he’s on his last leg. Unfortunately for him, he just lost his franchise player on defense, and his QB’s health is suspect at best. Detroit did add D’Andre Swift and Jeff Okudah during the draft, but it won’t be easy to replace what Darius Slay did for their defense. Old friend Desmond Trufant gets an INT off Matt Ryan, but the Falcons thump Detroit in one of their very few “easy” games in 2020.

Falcons 41, Lions 3

Record (5-2)

Week 8

In Week 8, the Falcons take on the Carolina Panthers in their second and final primetime matchup of the 2020 season. This is also their second game against Carolina, playing them both times before facing either of their other NFC South foes. The Panthers are expected to have a down year after bringing in a new QB and head coach. However, Thursday Night Football always comes with a bit of the unexpected, and this matchup takes place away from home.

Chase Irle’s Prediction

Like most NFL fanatics, I’m torn on the idea of Thursday Night Football. On the one hand, it gives us an extra day of football, which is never bad. No matter where I am on Thursday night, my eyes are typically peeled to a screen broadcasting the NFL. On the other hand, the games are usually much worse, and the risk for injury is much higher. However, since there’s money involved, Thursday Night Football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

When it comes to the Falcons, they don’t have a choice but to be laser-focused for their last matchup with the Panthers. If they want to make the playoffs, they have to take advantage of Carolina — undoubtedly the weakest team in their division. I currently have the Falcons at 4-3 — not too bad — but their schedule ramps up significantly in the second half of the year. I don’t see any way they sneak in the playoffs if they drop this game. So if they come out with that sense of urgency, they should have no problem walking out 2-0 against the Panthers. However, that hasn’t always been the case in the Dan Quinn era. I’m predicting the Falcons pull this one out, but it will be much closer than it should be.

Falcons 30, Panthers 27

Record (5-3)

Jake Gordon’s Prediction

Atlanta is again on short rest, but thankfully it’s against a much weaker opponent in Carolina. With Kansas City and two dates with Tom Brady and Drew Brees each looming, this is a must-win game. Thankfully, one thing Dan Quinn HAS done right is feast on Carolina. Falcons win big again, and Julio Jones goes for 250 yards

Falcons 38, Panthers 20

Record (6-2)

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