The NFL has officially released the regular season schedule for the 2012 season.
The Falcons have notched four primetime games. They have two matchups on Monday Night Football. The first matchup comes in Week 2, as the Falcons play host to the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos. Their second MNF appearance is actually on Saturday night in a Week 16 road matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Dallas Cowboys visit the Georgia Dome in Week 9 for Sunday Night Football. In Week 13, the Falcons host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.
Week 1: Sunday, September 9, at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.
The Falcons open up their season on the road at Kansas City in what will undoubtedly be an emotional return for the ex-Chief, tight end Tony Gonzalez. Quarterback Matt Ryan was a rookie when the two teams last met in 2008 in Atlanta. Running back Michael Turner rushed 24 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons won the matchup decidedly in a 38-14 rout. This is the third consecutive year the Falcons have opened the season on the road.
The Falcons should be able to handle the Chiefs.
Prediction: WIN (1-0)
Week 2: Monday, September 17, Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m.
Again emulating the previous two seasons, the Falcons’ home opener comes in the second week of the season. The Falcons fell to the Jay Cutler-led Denver Broncos by a score of 24-20 when the two teams last met in 2008. Wide receiver Roddy White had a chance at a game-winning touchdown, but dropped the well-thrown ball.
The Falcons get the nod in this matchup since they’re able to play quarterback Peyton Manning the second week of the season; surely he won’t be completely in sync with his new teammates. Playing the game in the Georgia Dome certainly helps as well. If this matchup were later in the season, I’d predict a loss.
Prediction: WIN (2-0)
Week 3: Sunday, September 23, at San Diego Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
In Week 3, the Falcons take off for the west coast to face the San Diego Chargers. The Falcons won the last matchup with the Chargers in 2008, winning 22-16. The Falcons have yet to lose in San Diego, posting a 5-0 record and a 7-1 record overall. The Falcons are 5-0 under head coach Mike Smith when traveling to the west coast; I think they’ll be 6-0 after Week 3.
Prediction: WIN (3-0)
Week 4: Sunday, September 30, Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m.
The Falcons return home from the west coast to host the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. Last time the Panthers visited the Georgia Dome, the Falcons picked off quarterback Cam Newton three times en route to a 31-17 victory. The game saw the Falcons make a concentrated effort to get the run game going again; running back Michael Turner rushed 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons hold a 22-12 series lead over the Panthers, and Mike Smith is 6-2 since becoming the Falcons’ head coach in 2008.
Prediction: WIN (4-0)
Week 5: Sunday, October 7, at Washington Redskins, 1:00 p.m.
The nation’s capital is the Falcons’ next destination. The two teams last met 2009; the Falcons won 31-17. Running back Michael Turner gashed the Redskins for 166 yards on 18 carries and also scored two touchdowns. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux had a monster game, notching 10 tackles, with 2.5 of those tackles being sacks. He was consistently in the Redskins’ backfield after every snap.
There was also a bit of drama in the game. Strong safety LaRon Landry hit quarterback Matt Ryan late on the sidelines. Naturally, the Falcons didn’t take kindly to the hit. Former Falcon cornerback DeAngelo Hall came over and started exchanging words with the Falcons’ sideline, and head coach Mike Smith (who was fined $15,000) shoved the ex-Falcon away.
The Falcons will face rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Playing against a rookie quarterback means an advantage for the Falcons.
Prediction: WIN (5-0)
Week 6: Sunday, October 14, Oakland Raiders, 1:00 p.m.
The Falcons traveled to Oakland in 2008 and blanked the Raiders, winning 24-0. Former Quarterback JaMarcus Russell went 6/19 for 31 yards and one interception; the Falcons’ defense was absolutely stifling. Quarterback Matt Ryan was extremely efficient, going 17/22 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
This year, they host the Raiders now led by quarterback Carson Palmer in Week 6. The Raiders are one of those teams that can never put it together, and this year should be no different.
Prediction: WIN (6-0)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, October 28, at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m.
The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for the Falcons; they’ll need as much rest as they can get before traveling out to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. Unfortunately, the Eagles are coming off their bye week as well; Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid is undefeated coming off the bye week. It’s not as if the Eagles needed any help beating the Falcons – the Eagles own the head-to-head series 10-15. Although the Falcons were able to squeeze out a 35-31 victory last year in the Georgia Dome, the Eagles won the previous two matchups in 2009 in Atlanta and 2010 in Philadelphia by scores of 34-7 and 31-17, respectively.
I doubt the Falcons will be able to handle he Eagles coming off the bye.
Prediction: LOSS (6-1)
Week 9: Sunday, November 4, Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m.
The Falcons return home to host the Dallas Cowboys for Sunday Night Football. Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys are another team that has the Falcons’ number; they lead the series 14-8. The two teams last met in 2009, and the Cowboys routed the Falcons 37-21. The last time the Cowboys traveled to the Georgia Dome was in 2006, and they were able to leave with a 38-28 victory.
While I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys won this game, the thing preventing me from chalking this up as a loss is the fact the Falcons have only lost consecutive games once (2009) under head coach Mike Smith.
Prediction: WIN (7-1)
Week 10: Sunday, November 11, at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m.
After hosting the Dallas Cowboys, the Falcons head down to New Orleans to face the Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Although the Falcons own the series 44-38, the Saints have had the Falcons’ number for the past few seasons. Since becoming the Falcons’ head coach in 2008, Mike Smith has posted a 2-6 record versus the Saints – 1-3 on both the road and at home. When the Falcons came to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last year, they were routed 45-16 by the Saints. I doubt the score will be that lopsided this time around.
Prediction: LOSS (7-2)
Week 11: Sunday, November 18, Arizona Cardinals, 1:00 p.m.
The Falcons leave New Orleans to host the Arizona Cardinals in a Week 11 matchup. Last time the Cardinals visited the Falcons in Atlanta, they were crushed 41-7. The Cardinals aren’t much better than they were in 2010, so they shouldn’t pose a huge problem for the Falcons.
Prediction: WIN (8-2)
Week 12: Sunday, November 25, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.
Last year, the Falcons traveled to Tampa Bay and lost 13-10 in an extremely sloppy game. Defensive tackle Corey Peters jumped offside on fourth down, effectively ending any chance the Falcons had at putting together a game-winning drive. The Buccaneers went out and signed a few high-priced free agents in wide receiver Vincent Jackson, left guard Carl Nicks, and cornerback Eric Wright. The series is tied at 19-19; the Buccaneers should make it 20-19.
Prediction: LOSS (8-3)
Week 13: Thursday, November 29, New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m.
The Falcons return home to host the New Orleans Saints for Thursday Night Football. The last time the Falcons beat in the Saints in the Georgia Dome was in 2008. After losing to the Saints three weeks prior, the Falcons exact their revenge and pull out a victory.
Prediction: WIN (9-3)
Week 14: Sunday, December 9, at Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m.
The Falcons have plenty of rest before making a trip up to North Carolina to face the Panthers. Last year when the two teams met in Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers stormed off to a 23-7 halftime lead. The Falcons then rattled off 24 consecutive points in the second half, winning 31-23. They intercepted quarterback Cam Newton twice, and wide receiver Julio Jones scored two touchdowns, one touchdown being a 75-yard score.
Prediction: WIN (10-3)
Week 15: Sunday, December 16, New York Giants, 1:00 p.m.
The New York Giants visit the Georgia Dome in Week 15 after embarrassing the Falcons in the 2011 playoffs by a score of 24-2. The Falcons have a chance to pay the Giants back, but while I doubt they’ll be able to pull out the victory, I do think they’ll score more than two measly points.
Prediction: LOSS (10-4)
Week 16: Saturday, December 22, at Detroit Lions, 8:30 p.m.
The Falcons face the Detroit Lions on the road for the second consecutive year. This time, the two teams face off on the last Monday Night Football game of the season. Last season, the Falcons were able defeat the Lions 23-16. Quarterback Matt Ryan suffered what appeared to be a season-ending injury after his ankle was stepped on by left tackle Will Svitek. Instead, he returned to the game after a few plays and led the Falcons to their fourth win of the season. The Falcons win in Detroit for the second consecutive year.
Prediction WIN (11-4)
Week 17: Sunday, December 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.
Like they did last year, the Falcons end the season by hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last time, the Falcons obliterated the Buccaneers in a 45-24 rout. The Falcons stormed out to a 42-0 lead, with wide receiver Julio Jones scoring twice and ex-Falcon middle linebacker Curtis Lofton scoring on an interception. While the game might not get as out of hand as it did last season, the Falcons should be able to effectively avenge their loss earlier in the season.
Prediction: WIN (12-4)
So, I predict the Falcons will post a 12-4 record this upcoming season, good enough for first place in the NFC South.
The Falcons’ schedule gets considerably more difficult after the bye; they should post a nice record before the bye to help cushion the inevitable losses that will occur following the bye. Also, if you haven’t noticed, the Falcons alternate between home and away games for the entire season. Lastly, this is the second consecutive year the Falcons have scored four primetime games.
The Falcons’ 2012 opponents were a combined 125-131 in 2011.