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A Look Ahead

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Afternoon all. Thought I might test the waters with a verbose look at our schedule. If you guys like it, I'll keep updating it every week. Each game will get a few observations and be rated on importance to our season. The scale is as follows: Meh = Win or lose, this one ain't tearing at any heartstrings; Hmm = Interesting matchup, but has little effect on season; Pay Attention = This one isn't pivotal, but it could end up effecting our chances in the long run; Serious Business = Winning this one is an absolute must.


Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday September 13th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: CBS
Why: The Dolphins were the other surprise resurgent turn-around team from 2008. The NFL loves its storylines.
Importance: Now that it's over, I'm going to say Serious Business. A win out of the gate can set the tone for the rest of the season. Above all else, winning immediately helps bolster fan and player morale and our young team is likely to only get better from here.
Notes: Our D stepped up and showed the entire league that the preseason was indeed a ruse. Our pass rush looks monstrous and our turnover ratio is +4, which is amazing even in just the first week considering the team ended 2008 with a -2. Tony Gonzalez is as advertised and Matt Ryan, though shaky in the first half, settled and ended the day with no glaring mistakes. Running game was shut down, but expect that to be fixed in the future.



Carolina Panthers

Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday September 20th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Serious Business. We should try to sweep the Panthers this year. Maybe 2002 will repeat and we get back to back shutouts. Maybe not. Regardless, we have to win this one if we want to take the division trophy.
Notes: With the way Delhomme is throwing the ball, our D could once again be the highlight of the day. Hopefully Turner can get back into rhythm and rip off some bruising, time eating drives. If not, I’m sure Matt Ryan and his stacked stable of catchers will be up to the challenge.


New England Patriots
Where: Gillette Stadium
When: Sunday September 27th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: To quote the great Nick Saban, "The NFL punishes success."
Importance: Hmm. This one will be interesting. A lot of Falcons fans (including me) already have this one locked down as a loss. Win or lose, it’s an excellent test for our seemingly better-than-expected defense.
Notes: After watching the Bills come within one stupid fumble of upsetting the high and mighty Patriots, I’m not so convinced that this game is out of hand for our plucky Birds anymore. If the D steps up, pressures Brady, and our line manages to stop the Patriot pass rush, this one could be a lot closer than many of us expect. If we squeak out the upset (let’s face it, unless the Pats lose this weekend by more than two touchdowns, the analysts will still be picking them over every team in the NFL, MLB, and NBA) it’s going to be through the air. The Patriot secondary looked weak against Buffalo.


San Francisco
Where: Candlestick Park
When: Sunday October 11th, 2009 @ 4:05pm
Network: FOX
Why: Because the Falcons were once in the NFC West for years and we met the Niners a lot. We still beat them more than %50 of the time, though.
Importance: Meh. We’re not in the West anymore.
Notes: Not too impressed with the Niners so far since the Arizona Cardinals were definitely holding up their fluke flag Sunday afternoon. If San Fran somehow has a QB and wide receiver by the time the game rolls around, I’ll be a little more worried. Still, it’s not a pivotal game and I’ve got it marked down as a W. Could always be surprised though. Across country is a long way to go to play a game, too. Still, we traveled to Cali last year and wound up beating the Chargers, so again, not that worried.


Chicago Bears
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday October 18th, 2009 @ 8:20pm
Network: NBC
Why: Last year's game was the most exciting Falcon win since the NFC Championship in 1998. The NFL is obviously hoping for a repeat.
Importance: Pay Attention. A loss here won't doom our season but it will certainly have an impact. Jay Cutler destroyed our defense last year with the Broncos and he looks to do it again this year with the Bears.
Notes: With Urlacher gone and Cutler not looking too hot, I think we have a real chance to win handily against Da Bears. If they do improve before we meet ‘em, I think we'll be in for some epic football once again.


Dallas Cowboys
Where: Cowboys Stadium
When: Sunday October 25th, 2009 @ 4:15pm
Network: FOX
Why: NFC "Powerhouse" meets NFC "Up-and-Comer." In other words, one team with potential faces another team with potential.
Importance: Pay Attention. If these teams are anywhere near the record I project for each, this one will be a barnburner. A loss won't be hugely detrimental, but it'd be nice to see Dallas go down for all those times in the past they took us out of the playoffs.
Notes: Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush! Keep Romo off kilter and the game's in hand.


New Orleans Saints
Where: Superdome
When: Monday November 2nd, 2009 @ 8:30pm
Network: ESPN
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Serious Business. If we want the Division, we have to go through Brees and co.
Notes: The New Orleans offense put up video game-esque numbers against the worst team in the league. Honestly, that's akin to winning a footrace with a quadriplegic. Their defense did allow 27 points to the lowly Lions so this game could easily become a shootout if our D cannot keep Brees from finding open men. With the Falcons in hostile territory, I'm saying this one ends with a mark in the L column.


Washington Redskins
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday November 8th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Why not? The Falcons have only won 5 of the last 19 meetings of these two teams. Expect this year to be different.
Importance: Meh. This could get ugly if our D's on form.
Notes: Jason Campbell should make for some nice prey for the Abe/Biermann tandem. The Redskin defense should be, with maybe the exception of Haynesworth, easy pickens for the Burner and crew.


Carolina Panthers Part Deux
Where: Bank of America Stadium
When: Sunday November 15th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Serious Business, for obvious reasons.
Notes: The Panthers may have their stuff straight by this meeting. Hopefully we will too. If we do, I fully expect a win here.


New York Giants
Where: Giants Stadium
When: Sunday November 22nd, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: To be the best, you have to beat the best.
Importance: Pay Attention. The Giants’ running game is superb. Hopefully our D can stop it. A great midseason test.
Notes: Our rush D will be put to a heavy test. Our pass rush will be up against a big wall. Our secondary will have to account for a lot of threats. Our running and passing games will be up against a stout defense. A win here will be a big statement.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday November 29th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Serious Business. We meet Tampa late in the season this year. A young, growing team, the Bucs could have some rhythm going into this one.
Notes: The Bucs are expected to stink. I believe they’ll be serviceable by this time in the season. I’m not expecting an epic battle here, but the Bucs do have the talent to upset us. The Falcons will just have to be on their A game. Don’t look past anyone.


Philadelphia Eagles
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday December 6th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Because Eagles and Falcons are natural enemies.
Importance: Originally, I was going to say Pay Attention, but seeing as the Eagles have ruined our chances on more than one occasion, and they’ll be bringing "you know who" back to town (which will likely have some of the Dome’s home fans utterly conflicted), I’m going to say Serious Business. We win this one or die trying.
Notes: McNabb will likely be back under center, but Michael "sack magnet" Vick will be eligible to play. Abe and Biermann will hopefully have a field day with either. The Eagles are consistently tough, and consistently kick our butts on D. With all the weapons we have now, I think the story will end a little differently this time. I’m hoping we take them behind the woodshed. If not, I’d take a regular ol’ win with a side of some stout, brick wall-like Falcons defense.


New Orleans Saints 2: Electric Boogaloo
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday December 13th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Serious Business. With a probable loss in the Superdome, the Birds will definitely have to win here on their home turf if the division title is to be theirs.
Notes: We have to win. We have to shut down Brees, Bush, Thomas. We have to light up the passing game, rush it down their throats, and leave them begging for mercy (they won’t get any).


New York Jets
Where: Giants Stadium
When: Sunday December 20th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Because New Yorkers couldn’t get enough of us the first go round against the Giants.
Importance: Pay Attention. A good showing at a late road game is bound to bolster our playoff stock, should we be talented/lucky enough to have any at this point.
Notes: Our D should have a field day with Sanchez, unless he becomes the next coming of Namath. Highly doubt that though. Their defense should be serviceable so our offense should be put to a good test.


Buffalo Bills
Where: Georgia Dome
When: Sunday December 27th, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: CBS
Why: The Bills are expected to be better this year, especially with TO in the fold. If the Pats game is any indication, as long as they take care of their mistakes, Buffalo will be quite the formidable opponent.
Importance: Pay Attention for one reason; TO versus our secondary.
Notes:  When stacked against a pretty average Pats pass rush, the Buffalo OL collapsed in key situations. With our strong end rush, I don’t expect Trent Edwards to have much time in the pocket. Still, the Bills looked good against the Pats so, barring any collapses during the early and mid season, this game could be quite entertaining.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers With a Vengeance
Where: Raymond James Stadium
When: Sunday January 3rd, 2009 @ 1:00pm
Network: FOX
Why: Divisional Game
Importance: Either Meh if we’ve locked a playoff spot and sit our starters or Serious Business if we need a win to take control of the division and/or earn those back-to-back winning seasons.
Notes: Tampa Bay will either be in shreds by this weekend or be everyone’s surprise darling. Either way, the Falcons have the tools to defeat them. Let’s hope the Birds use them.