We are just a few short weeks away from the regular season, and the Falcons will face a generally tough slate of teams this season. There will obviously be home and away contests against the rest of the NFC South, teams that tend to play each other tough regardless of their records, plus a primetime matchup at home against the Patriots, a rematch with the Seahawks, a matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, and a trip to Candlestick Park to take on the 49ers, to name a few.
In looking at the Falcons' schedule for 2013, a few games stand out as being particularly appealing. First of all, week one against the Saints in New Orleans would be a great game to attend. The Saints are out of excuses with head coach Sean Payton back on the sideline, and regardless of whether the Saints view it as a rivalry or not, any matchup with New Orleans tends to be exciting. Plus, beating New Orleans in New Orleans is delightful, and a solid performance from the Falcons in that game will go a long way toward setting the tone for both teams for the coming season.
Conversely, the week 12 Thursday Night Football contest against New Orleans in the Georgia Dome should be a fun one. Last season, when the Saints visited the Falcons for Thursday Night Football, the Falcons picked off Drew Brees five times, and broke his consecutive games with a passing touchdown streak, but also effectively crushed any hopes New Orleans may have had of somehow pulling it together enough to make the playoffs after an 0-5 start. It's very possible that week 12 will be an important game for both the Falcons and the Saints in the quest for a division title.
Atlanta's home matchup against the Patriots should be a good game. The Patriots, like the Falcons, made it to their conference championship last season and fell short of a Super Bowl, but certainly had a contentious offseason. This barely resembles last year's team, with Aaron Hernandez in prison, Wes Welker in Denver and Tim Tebow in a Patriots jersey, but as long as Tom Brady is healthy the Pats should be viable.
The home game against the Seahawks, who will be out for blood after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Falcons last season, should also be an enjoyable game. The last time we saw the Seahawks, they stole a huge lead from the Falcons, only to watch their hopes and dreams evaporate with a Matt Bryant kick and a Julio Jones interception. Richard Sherman in particular is likely counting down to this one, as there's no love lost between Sherman and Roddy White.
On the road, Falcons fans might want to be in San Francisco to watch the Falcons exact their revenge on the 49ers. Needless to say, every Falcons fan desperately wants a win in Candlestick Park. The media narrative leading up to that game is going to be Atlanta's blown lead in the NFC Championship Game and their inability to overcome it, and after being forced to relive that for an entire week, a win over the 49ers will be the only thing to ease our collective pain. Seeing that win in person would be doubly rewarding.
It's a really tough call for me to narrow down the coming season to just one game. Of course, either matchup with the Saints would be an easy answer. I desperately want to see the Falcons beat the 49ers this season. But, if I had to choose just one game to attend this season, it would be Sunday Night Football against the Packers at Lambeau Field. For one thing, Lambeau Field was recently voted the best stadium experience for fans across all professional sports. It is a spectacular stadium. For another thing, it's reasonable to expect that the Packers will, again, be in contention for the playoffs, so it will be an important game for both teams. Third, I have never been to a NFL game anywhere other than the Georgia Dome, so an outdoor, cold weather game at night in December would be a completely unique experience.
If you could only attend one game this season, which game would you choose?