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Falcons 2020 schedule roundtable: What The Falcoholic staff thinks of the slate

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The toughest game, the easiest game, and our predicted win totals.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dave Choate: Tough sledding ahead

Easiest game: Week 12 vs. Raiders

Hardest game: Week 16 at Chiefs

Projected record: 8-8

I’m somewhat of an eternal optimist when it comes to the Falcons. Even when I think they’ll fare poorly, tend to think it’s the high end of poorly, and more often than not I bet on the talent at hand.

This year, I think the Falcons have done a nice job of setting themselves up for the future. I like the draft a lot and I think guys like Dante Fowler and Hayden Hurst will be helpful pieces over the next couple of years, at minimum, and that the outlook post-Drew Brees and Tom Brady in the NFC South is probably quite bright.

That said, this is a rough schedule. They’ll have plenty of tough games in the first half of the year but it’s a more balanced slate, but the secnod half will depend on their ability to win in the NFC South and win road games against the AFC, historically a very dicey proposition for Dan Quinn’s squad. Unless there’s more improvement than suspected in this group, and the NFC South isn’t quite as tough as we expected, I’d say they’ll end up around .500 when all is said and done. Hope to be wrong!

Evan Birchfield: Jinkies!

Easiest game: Week 7 vs. Detroit Lions

Hardest game: Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs

Projected record: 7-9

I swear, the Falcons are year-after-year stuck with the most difficult regular season schedule. The Falcons will need to start off hot, unlike last season where they went an embarrassing 1-7 out of the gate. The first 8 games are naturally tough this year, as we face the Seahawks, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Panthers, Vikings, Lions and Panthers again. With two of the games being a primetime game, this is going to one of the more difficult first 8 game that the Falcons have had in a while.

Unfortunately, the second half won’t be any easier. We still have to play the Saints twice and we finish the season on the road at the Chiefs and then at the Buccaneers. I don’t know, folks. I want to be optimistic here but that’s an insanely tough schedule. It’s entirely possible that the Falcons could shock us all, as they did in the last half of the 2019 season finishing 6-2. Right now, 10 wins seems like an absolute best-case scenario. This may be enough though considering the NFL has extended the playoffs to include an additional playoff team from each conference. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Hopefully the Falcons do that in 2020.

Eric Robinson: Woof

Easiest game: Week 7 vs. Detroit Lions

Hardest game: Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs

Projected record: 10-6

Color me optimistic. Even with a schedule that really does not have any “easy” tests. The team rallied around their head coach and general manager last season to the tune of seven wins. Now with the additions of Gurley, Fowler, Terrell, and Davidson along with the hire of a new secondary coach and giving Raheem Morris the full-time defensive coordinator role, I think the Falcons did enough to win about three extra games. Starting off the season against Seattle is a unique test for them that can be somewhat of a litmus test. Their final month of the season however is going to showcase how good the Falcons really are.

Cory Woodroof: Optimistic!

Easiest game: Week 9 vs. Denver Broncos

Hardest game: Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints

Projected record: 10-6

The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl; it’s always understanding as to how you can be pessimistic of their ultimate fortunes. I’ll be honest: I really do think this team stands to be a lot better in 2020. The schedule falls really well for them when it counts: it gives them good iron to sharpen against early, a softer middle and some of the hardest games late when the team typically has its bearings under Dan Quinn. It’s a tough slate on paper, but trying to gauge a season on a schedule in May never really pans out. Kings become paupers, and vise versa, every single year, and the unexpected always reigns supreme.

Schedule predictions, by nature, always look a bit wonky once the dust settles, as I’m sure mine will once I make it. Such is the nature of the beast. But if the Falcons can be a better version of what they were in the second half of 2019, they can and will win games and get back to the postseason, even if the giants await (not those). I really don’t think that’s as hard if an “if” as it might appear.

Adnan Ikic: Difficult but with some favorability

Easiest game: Week 12 vs. Raiders

Hardest game: Week 16 at Chiefs

Projected Record: 9-7

We all knew that the Falcons would have a difficult slate of NFC North and AFC West opponents, along with the second placed finishers from the NFC West (Seattle) and NFC East (Dallas), to contend with. Seeing it all out in front of us in the form of a set schedule makes this difficulty feel even more real, but I’d like to focus on some of the favors done for the Falcons by the schedule makers this year.

For one, a bye week that’s not too early (in this case, Atlanta’s is in Week 10) is a big plus. This year, that bye week comes right before the first matchup against the Saints (Week 11) while New Orleans will be coming off of a Week 10 showdown against the 49ers. The second matchup against the Saints (in Week 13) will feature no travel for Atlanta while New Orleans has to fly cross country from Denver.

Thanks to logistics already put in place for expected travel to London (which won’t be happening anymore), Atlanta will get even more rest as they will play only one game between October 30 and November 21 (a three-week stretch). That will be a home game against the Broncos.

And while they will have to travel to Green Bay for a prime time showdown, that’s generally a lot more bearable to do in early October (Week 4) than it would be in November or December.

The Falcons should take a step forward from last season, but they will do so while facing an objectively more difficult schedule. That extra playoff spot could prove to be golden.

Matt Chambers: Seeing it on paper feels so much worse

Easiest game: Week 8 vs. Broncos

Hardest game: Week 16 at Chiefs

Projected Record: 8-8

Predicting this team feels really difficult. I can usually feel pretty comfortable with my guess, between maybe one or two games. This team could run the gamut. I think a lot of the talent is there, but it has been there for years and we keep seeing 7-9 seasons. Arthur Blank may be hoping consistency will bring Atlanta some wins but this schedule is not great. At least the bye week is late this year?

Kevin Knight: It’ll be tough sledding for Atlanta in 2020

Easiest game: Week 5 vs. Panthers

Hardest game: Week 16 at Chiefs

Projected Record: 8-8

There’s no way to sugarcoat things: this is a very difficult schedule for the Falcons. It was always going to be tough in the NFC South this year, with the Saints still looking strong and the Bucs going all-in to try and win with Tom Brady. Atlanta also drew the AFC West and NFC North, which are two of the most talented divisions in the NFL. Remember all those meaningless wins at the end of the 2019 season? That gave the Falcons a second-place finish, which netted them games against Seattle and Dallas—two playoff-caliber teams.

The strong schedule (and games against a ton of potential NFC playoff contenders) is a double-edged sword. If Atlanta surprises and plays better than we expect, they’ll have the opportunity to get head-to-head victories over their biggest playoff competitors. If they struggle, they could easily get knocked out of the race on tiebreakers alone. The good news is that the Falcons avoid any long road trips—they play away from home just two straight weeks in Weeks 16-17—and get back-to-back home games going into the matchup with New Orleans.

There’s obviously still a lot to be determined about the upcoming season, but I think 8-8 is the most likely outcome for this team. They’re too talented to end up in the dregs of the NFL, but I fear that coaching will once again hold this roster back. There will be very little room for error in a schedule this tough, which means an early season slump like the ones we faced in 2018 and 2019 will doom this team—and Dan Quinn—to mediocrity. Somehow, they’ve got to pull out some early wins and not bank on winning streaks to end the season.