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Falcons’ schedule looks to be an uphill climb at first glance

Every week will be a legitimate battle when the season gets underway.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL schedules are officially out in the world, and the Atlanta Falcons know exactly when and where they’ll need to be for game days this fall.

The good news is that the Falcons, as they always do, have a good chance in every game they play in. They’re a really good football team at full strength and have a pretty complete roster and revamped coaching staff to work with now.

But the hard part is they’ve gotten a bit of the short end of the stick with their schedule draw. This is as hard a schedule as we’ve seen in ages, though that’s going with 2018 institutional knowledge.

The hard part with making schedule predictions is exactly that. Some teams get better; other teams fall off the face of the earth. Some stay their persnickety selves and give you fits you’d rather avoid. You just can’t tell, but we’ll do our best to size up the competition as it’s been scheduled and give you the best idea of where all of this is headed.

September a balanced bear

You always like to get some hard games out of the way, and the Falcons can benefit from doing just that.

They open the season on the road with the Minnesota Vikings, who always present a tough matchup. That vaunted 2017 defense faded a bit in 2018, and the offense struggled to be consistent. But it’s Week 1, and anything can happen. Like Atlanta, they’ll be looking to rebound.

The bright lights roll into Atlanta for the home opener with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, and we don’t really need to get into recent history with those dadgum Eagles. Needless to say, it’ll be a game. Funny enough, it’ll be the first time the team has faced Carson Wentz since 2016.

A road trip to see the rejuvenated Indianapolis Colts is in store for Week 3, which will undoubtedly be a toss-up. Dan Quinn has had his struggles against AFC opponents in the past, and the Colts are on the up-and-up after a strong finish in 2018. Andrew Luck, when he’s on, is hard to stop, and that defense came out of nowhere last season without a lot of talent to spare.

The Tennessee Titans will take the short flight to Atlanta in Week 4 to close out the month. The Titans tend to be a “wait-and-see” team each year, though they have places where they can hurt you. Marcus Mariota is tenacious and can win games by himself.

Record prediction: The Falcons have a lot to prove, and traditionally get off to strong starts under Quinn. We’ll say they go 3-1, only dropping a close road match to the Colts. No game will be a breather, though.

October just as scary

As if life could slow down any, Atlanta heads on the road twice before heading home for a tricky two-game home stand against two playoff teams.

The team heads down to Texas to meet former Falcons ball boy Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans to open the month. The Texans were one of the AFC’s best teams last year, with Watson and DeAndre Hopkins two of the more dangerous players they’ll see all season. That defense is no joke, either, with the revitalized J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney leading the pass rush.

The late afternoon road game to see the Arizona Cardinals, on paper, is the easiest in the bunch right now, but that could change of the team takes quarterback Kyler Murray and he comes out strong. They’ll say hello to former Falcons Robert Alford, Brooks Reed, and, indeed, Corey Peters this game.

When they get home, two heavyweights from the NFC West await. The Super Bowl silver medalist Los Angeles Rams may have a bit of a hangover to shake off, but Sean McVay remains a dangerous offensive mind and Aaron Donald is still the best defensive player in the game. It’ll be a tough contest to navigate.

The month closes with the Seattle Seahawks, who the Falcons traditionally play well against and have the advantage of playing in friendly confines. Russell Wilson just got a massive raise, and Frank Clark just sent a tweet that may hint those trade rumors will come true. Expect another tough afternoon here.

Record prediction: October games typically aren’t the prettiest football Atlanta plays in this iteration of the team, and it’s a grind of a month at that. We think they’ll go 2-2, getting wins against the Cardinals and Seahawks. The Rams game goes close, but is just one of those you’re frustrated they let slip away.

November a set of familiar foes

As you might have heard, the Falcons transition into a stretch of five straight divisional games at this point of the season. It’s not ideal! But really, it’s an easier run than what they start out with, and you want your easier games pushed toward the back end of the schedule.

The bye week is Week 9, followed by a Week 10 trip down to New Orleans to face the archrival Saints. The Falcons have gotten pulverized in their last two meetings in the Superdome, so you can sure bet the team will be eager to rectify that, or at least put up a better fight.

That’s followed by a Week 11 game with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, which is winnable, if always a nervous conquest. Cam Newton has moments of brilliance and moments of errant play, so it just depends which Cam we get. That defense is also a wild card.

Then comes the Bruce Arians-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 12, who should be much better coached this fall. Can Jameis Winston put it together this season? It’s good the team gets its first look at this version of the Bucs in Atlanta before they have to play them on the road.

The month closes with another Thanksgiving Day parade with the rival Saints at home in prime time for Week 13. Surely the team can even the score after getting grilled last November in front of the whole world.

Record prediction: Let’s go with 3-1. We’re going to, hopefully not haphazardly, predict a win in Carolina. They split with the Saints, and get a close one against the Bucs.

December no cake walk

The month of December gets going in Week 14 with a home stand against the Carolina Panthers, which, again, can always go either way. The team has topped Carolina in Atlanta each time since 2015, which is a good sign.

The team heads out to San Francisco to take on a mysterious 49ers team in Week 15, one that didn’t have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to lead it last season. Former Falcons OC Kyle Shanahan still calls a nasty game, and that defensive line is going to figure it out at some point. They’ll see old friend Tevin Coleman this week, unfortunately now back on Shanny’s chess board.

In Week 16, the team then hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars, another enigma wrapped in a riddle. The team got close at a Super Bowl berth in 2017 before disappearing in 2018. The offense is not amazing, but the defense is still ferocious on paper. That’ll be an important game to score early.

And just like last season, the year closes with a trip out to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. This Bucs team won’t be like the other ones, so don’t be upset if they split the record this year. Arians is a great coach!

Record prediction: We hate to say it, but 2-2 is a distinct reality. They could easily drop that 49ers trip, as Shanahan knows this team well. Ditto goes for the Bucs trip; it just feels like they’ll lose one to Arians this season.

So that’s the schedule. This puts the team at 10-6, which could mean a lot of things. 10-6 is nothing to be ashamed of on a schedule like this; it shows a three-game improvement from 2018 and should be enough to at least punch a spot for the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Let us know below how you think this schedule shapes up. We’ll see how these prognostications hold up one the season gets going in September.