In 2013, the Falcons will welcome the St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, New York Jets, and the Washington Redskins to the Georgia Dome, which we discussed on Friday. Let's take a look at the opponents the Falcons will face on the road next season.
The Falcons will travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals team that picked Matt Ryan off five times in 2012. The Cardinals started strong this season, but ended the year with a 5-11 record. The 2013 Cardinals will be under the guidance of new head coach Bruce Arians, who certainly had a lot of success with the Indianapolis offense as the Colts interim head coach during Chuck Pagano's illness in the 2012 season, and it's likely that there may be a different quarterback under center for Arizona as well, with the futures of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley up in the air at this point. The Cardinals also have new coordinators, Harold Goodwin on offense, and Todd Bowles on defense, so Arizona will likely be a new-look team in 2013.
Also on Atlanta's travel agenda in 2013 is Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The 49ers are still painful to discuss at this point. Candlestick is a difficult place to play, and it's agonizingly fresh in our minds how tough the 49ers are. This one will be a challenge.
The Falcons will travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins. The Phins finished last season at 6-10, and it's reasonable to expect that they could improve offensively in the second season for both head coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It is probable that the Dolphins will be without leading rusher Reggie Bush next season, which could change the dynamic of their offense somewhat. Defensively, the Dolphins were middling last season. In case you didn't know, Tannehill's wife, Lauren, is very attractive, so expect to hear a lot of comments about her when the Falcons play the Dolphins.
The Falcons will play the Bills in Buffalo, and while the Bills have struggled mightily over the past several seasons, the most significant factor in this matchup is the timing. Winter in upstate New York begins really early, compared to Georgia, and the Falcons could be dealing with all manner of precipitation and chilly temperatures.
In related potential cold weather news, the Falcons will travel to Lambeau Field to play the Packers. This will be a rematch with the team that so effectively crushed the hopes and dreams of every Falcons fan in 2010, Aaron Rodgers continues to be one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league, and Lambeau Field is a difficult place to play. The Packers are likely to part ways with some key free agents this offseason, including wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley, and they did retain defensive coordinator Dom Capers, much to my Packers fan husband's chagrin, so it's questionable whether the defense that struggled in 2012 is likely to improve much. This is another game that we should hope is scheduled early in the season, because that Wisconsin cold late in the season can be soul-crushing for a southern dome team.
The Falcons will also take on the Buccaneers, the Panthers and the Saints on the road. All of those teams finished 7-9 last season, but divisional games, especially on the road, are always a challenge.
Which road game are you most looking forward to in 2013? How do you expect the Falcons to fare on the road next season?