The Falcons have lost their last three Week 1 matchups and four out of their last five, including two home games. To say this team has not been getting off to hot starts of late would significantly understate the problem, as we all know Atlanta’s gone 3-13 combined in the first half of the past two seasons.
Of course, much has changed this year, as Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff are gone and the roster has been re-shuffled, if not overhauled. The matchup isn’t quite as daunting as the Seahawks or Vikings or even 2018 Philadelphia Eagles, given how much that team has done to crater like the Falcons over the past three seasons. The Falcons are unlikely to kick back and relax, given that they’ve spent an offseason of scrimping and light spending insisting they plan to compete this year, and will be eager to prove they can actually do just that.
Besides “because I want them to win,” why do the Falcons need this home opener victory?
- They’d be in real danger of starting the season in an 0-2 hole—they have a road matchup against the Buccaneers in Week 2—and just north of 30 teams in NFL history have dug out of that start to go to the postseason. I think fans will be pretty sanguine, by and large, if this team isn’t great so long as they improve, compete and push hard for the playoffs in the first part of the year. I don’t think anyone on the team or anyone watching the team is going to feel great if they come out flat against Philadelphia and get crushed by Tampa Bay, however.
- The Falcons only have 7 true home games on the 2021 slate, because there are no longer an even number of games and the Jets matchup at home is in London. Thus far, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has not proven to be the kind of place opposing teams fear to play in, but given their long road stretches it’s going to be essential to win as many home matchups as possible if they want to contend.
- There are easier matchups on the schedule—the Jets are likely to be one of them, the Giants another—but the Eagles are a clearly rebuilding team that doesn’t have a terrific offense on paper. The first week of the season always features plenty of weirdness, but if the Falcons stumble badly against Philadelphia with almost all of their starters healthy, it’s a bad sign for the rest of the season.
Your expectations for the season may vary, but I’m hopeful the Falcons can at least be in the NFC South hunt until late in the year. In a little over a week, a win in the home opener for Atlanta would be the first crucial step to showing they can make this season more enjoyable and less forgettable than the last three.