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Falcons 2016 schedule prediction: Is another .500 year on the way?

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It's a tough schedule for the Falcons, but they should tread water if they're better.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It's an annual tradition for me to make season predictions right damn now, before the draft and before we really know what shape this team will take. It is my sacred duty to be way off.

Let's do it.

Week 1: vs. Buccaneers (Win)

The Buccaneers are going to be better, but opening the season at (hopefully) full health and at home, the Falcons should be able to win this one. Yes, I'm already embracing the Falcons being better against the NFC South in 2016, at least.

Week 2: @ Raiders (Loss)

This is a rapidly improving young team at home on the West Coast, and I think they'll be good enough to steal this one away from Atlanta.

Week 3: @ Saints (Win)

This game will feature a Steve Gleason tribute, it's on Monday night, and it's in New Orleans, which seems like a situation where the Falcons will certainly lose. I don't think the Saints will be significantly better, however, and given the way Saints-Falcons games usually go, I'll expect the unexpected and predict a win.

Week 4: vs. Panthers (Loss)

I'd like to predict a home win for the Falcons, but unless they've significantly improved and/or the Panthers come way back down to earth, I can't see it. It took a Herculean effort to beat them at home last year, after all.

Week 5: @Broncos (Win)

This should be an impossible game, but the Broncos lost several pieces and they'll be rolling with either a rookie, Mark Sanchez, or Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, so I can see Atlanta coming out of this one with a victory. Call me crazy.

Week 6: @Seahawks (Loss)

The Seahawks are just tough, even minus Marshawn Lynch, and playing them on the road is always brutal. Atlanta loses one of their more lopsided games of the year, I'm guessing.

Week 7: Chargers (Win)

Rivers is dangerous and there's some interesting pieces on defense, but this just isn't a great team, and the Falcons get to return home after a brutal stretch.

Week 8: Packers (Win)

Again, the Packers are tough, but they're not the juggernaut they were a few years back, and I don't fear them that much in the Georgia Dome.

Week 9: @ Buccaneers (Loss)

On the road, where the Falcons put forth a pretty dismal effort a year ago, and I do think Jameis Winston and the Bucs will be finding their way a bit by this point.

Week 10: @ Eagles (Win)

No great quarterback, retooling team...I'll take the Falcons.

Week 12: Cardinals (Loss)

They're just a scary, aggressive team that I don't think anyone relishes playing. Second home loss of the season.

Week 13: Chiefs (Win)

They're a tough team, no question, but a little less of a challenge than a full-strength Cardinals team.

Week 14: @Rams (Loss)

Los Angeles will have its growing pains and aren't a complete team, but they have a tough defense, they'll have the top pick to snag a rookie quarterback with promise, and Todd Gurley is a beast. On the road, on the West Coast, I say a loss.

Week 15: 49ers (Win)

Should be the lock win of the year, which means I'll be nervous of it when it comes time to watch this. The 49ers simply shouldn't be very good this year.

Week 16: @ Panthers (Loss)

On the road? Gah.

Week 17: Saints (Loss)

The Falcons should win this one, and not the one earlier in the season on the road, so this is the one they'll lose. It's the Saints, after all.

Record: 8-8

There are some wiggle games on this schedule, including the Raiders road game, the NFC South matchups, and the Rams on the road, and a truly improved Falcons team could surprise and run their record up to 11-5 or so. Injury or a second consecutive year of mistake-prone offense, meanwhile, could doom them to a lesser record. I do think they'll slot in right around .500, give or take a game either way, in a somewhat painful second season of the Dan Quinn era that we strongly hope is building toward a very successful 2017. I'll hope to be surprised, but I think this will be an average season, without the long winning and losing streaks of 2015.

We'll do this again much closer to the season, but what's your prediction? Stay tuned for tomorrow's optimistic and pessimistic takes on the schedule, which I think you'll enjoy.