This is the kind of hard-hitting journalism that will win me a Nobel Prize.
After looking over your responses to my discussion post yesterday, it's become apparent that most of you think we're going to be 10-6 at the minimum. If you had told me that a group of diehard Falcon fans would predict that outcome this season, I would've backed away from you slowly while armed men put you in a straitjacket.
I really can't stop marveling at how crazy this season really has been. No matter how many wins we muster from here on out, I'm going to consider this season a success. The greedy bastard in me wants us to roll to 13-3, but I've gotta be semi-realistic.
For my investigative reporting into the schedule, check after the jump.
W, Denver Broncos: Maybe I'm just being a ridiculous homer here, but I think this one is extremely winnable. The Broncos can't stop a decent offense with a police blockade and spike traps, so the team should roll up the yardage against them. The real question is whether the Falcons will be able to stop one of the best passing games in the league. If they play coverage-heavy and force the Broncos to turn to their injury-decimated running backs, I think they could make this one look like the Saints game all over again.
L, Carolina Panthers: I'm sorry, but I just can't pick the Falcons in this one. I know how horrible Delhombre and the team in general looked against the Raiders, but I think they were looking past that team in a major way. They're unlikely to do the same with us. The Panthers have a good secondary, a very good pass rush and a potent enough offense to make this a win. I think it'll be close, but I still think the Falcons will come up short here.
W, San Diego Chargers: I'm baffled by the number of people who think the Chargers are going to eat us for breakfast. The same Chargers who have a suddenly ancient LaDanian Tomlinson? The same ones who have one of the league's most putrid secondaries? I don't think so. There's always the possibility that the Chargers will pull their act together, but their record is a pretty good reflection of their level of play and I think the Falcons will handle their business.
W, New Orleans Saints: I know it's a home game for the Saints, but I think even the guys at Canal Street Chronicles will be surprised if they're not a pile of flaming wreckage at that point. The Saints have proved they can get it done on offense, but I don't see their defense improving and the Falcons will come up with some new looks on D. Should be a closer game, but I'd still expect a win.
L, Tampa Bay Bucs: This one is downright offensive to my senses. I can't shake the fact that the Bucs--those sneaky, no good, offensively challenged nitwits--will somehow do just enough to conquer the Falcons. Their defense is still very good, but the real story here is the maddening way they manage to put just enough points on the board. Cadillac Williams may also be back and at full strength, which is very bad news for the Falcons' D. No matter what anyone tells you, the Caddy is better than Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn.
L, Minnesota Vikings: Between Adrian Peterson and one of the league's best run defenses, I can see this actually being the most difficult game the Falcons face. They're no slouches in coverage, which means that if Turner does his classic disappearing act against their potent front seven, Ryan will be called upon to lift a very heavy burden. Add in a somehow competent passing attack led by noted mountain goat Gus Frerotte and you've got a recipe for a very tough contest.
W, St. Louis Rams: The Rams have Steven Jackson at running back and Donnie Avery at wide receiver. Beyond that, they have such a huge collection of scrubs that you'd swear you were watching a medical drama play out on the field. The Falcons can't afford to look past anybody, but the Rams are truly atrocious.
Predicted Record: 10-6
Final Thoughts: Looks like we're all ending up in pretty much the same place, eh? If the Falcons can get to 10-6, the imploding NFC East may give them a chance to grab a wildcard even if Tampa Bay holds out for second place in the division. I'm not guaranteeing a playoff berth, but right now things look pretty good for our beloved Dirty Birds.
Oh, and GO FALCONS!