The Falcons have just seven weeks left in their 2016 season. They’re currently sitting at 6-3, more than two games up on the rest of the NFC South, and arguably the most brutal stretch of their schedule is already over. That means that they should be in excellent position for these last several games, and in the playoff hunt until the very end of the year.
I took a look at each opponent and delivered a quick win or loss prediction for them, along with some brief reasoning for that decision. I ultimately have Atlanta going 4-3 over the final seven games, which sounds disappointing until you remember that it’ll be put them well over .500 and in excellent position to capture the division, regardless.
Week 10: @ Philadelphia Eagles - Loss
I’m assuming this one will be a loss, even though the Falcons will be fairly well rested and are ridiculous offensively. The Eagles have a tough defense, a competent offense at worst, and have the advantage of being home in Philly, where they’re a tough out. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz may be a key factor here, because while he’s been extremely competent for a rookie, he hasn’t been asked to challenge defenses, and the Eagles are going to lose any game where they need to be overly methodical on offense.
Week 12: vs. Arizona Cardinals - Win
This is one of those games that I had as an obvious loss coming into the season, but a lot has changed since then. The Cardinals have been surprisingly inept defensively at times—though they also held the Seahawks to six points in overtime a short time ago—and their offense is David Johnson and whatever competent flashes Carson Palmer can summon at this stage of his career. They’re still a dangerous team, and this one might end up being a nailbiter, but I think the Falcons will simply outgun them.
Week 13: vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Win
I’ve gone back and forth on this multiple times. Kansas City is missing Jamaal Charles and may or may not have Spencer Ware when the Falcons meet, making them somewhat of a one-dimensional offense, and not a stellar one. On the other hand, they’re talented and opportunistic on defense, with Marcus Peters capable of turning the tide of a game himself with his aggressive pursuit of interceptions. Ultimately, though, I think Atlanta will (again) be able to outgun them, and KC’s offense just isn’t scary enough for me to think they can hang if the game gets high-scoring.
Week 14: @ Los Angeles Rams - Loss
While I think Atlanta wins both of the preceding games, I do think they’ll both be challenging, physical contests, which is why I think they’ll drop this one against the Rams. St. Louis is embarrassingly ineffective on offense, but may improve a bit with Jared Goff under center (and he should be under center at this point). Their defense has been largely mediocre, but they’re relentless and potent up front with Aaron Donald in the center of that defensive line, and given the way pass rushes have gotten home in recent weeks, this might be the contest where that makes a major difference.
Week 15: vs. San Francisco 49ers - Win
This is one of the 3-5 worst teams in the NFL, traveling to Atlanta, and they have neither the strong offense nor the tough defense necessary to give the Falcons fits. With the exception of that San Diego game, the Falcons have shown the ability to beat lesser teams in 2016, and they should dominate this game.
Week 16: @ Carolina Panthers - Win
The Panthers on the road should be a tough out, and I’m wary of this one because Carolina could certainly be a greatly improved team by this point. The Panthers just don’t have an answer for Julio Jones, who absolutely roasted them the last time around, and if they can get after Cam Newton I think Atlanta will pull this one off.
Week 17: vs. New Orleans Saints - Loss
Two factors here: It’s a Saints game, which means it’ll be weird, and the Falcons won a key road game in New Orleans earlier this year, which means this feels like it’ll be the letdown game. If Atlanta’s at ten wins at this point of the season and at least two games up on the rest of the NFC South, which is a distinct possibility, they may also elect to rest players, increasing the chances of New Orleans winning this game. I do freely admit that I don’t consider it likely they’ll sit anyone if seeding is on the line, but even so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Saints win this one, damn them.
Ultimately, I’ve got Atlanta sitting at 10-6, winning the NFC South, and heading into the playoffs with one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. A lot could change between now and Week 17, but I’d certainly feel good about this outcome, regardless of how they get there.
How about you?