The Atlanta Falcons are a roller coaster without the fun. They've either inspired hope or ripped fans' hearts out of their chests only to finish 7-9 the past two NFL seasons. Unfortunately, the NFC South could be much tougher with the addition of Tom Brady in it now.
Still, there's reason to be excited in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Running back Todd Gurley is back home in Georgia, where he first captured the hearts of fans while playing for a different red-and-black team, the Georgia Bulldogs. The team also added notable names in free agency like Dante Fowler and Hayden Hurst despite losing cornerback Desmond Trufant, tight end Austin Hooper, defensive end Vic Beasley and running back DeVonta Freeman.
And let's talk about that talent on offense. Atlanta could very well field 10 or more former first-round draft picks around quarterback Matt Ryan. He has Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hurst to throw to, plus he'll be protected by Jake Matthews, James Carpenter, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
That's terrific, but what about the defense? Atlanta's defense didn't inspire much hope last year, and a roster full of young, unproven cornerbacks could spell trouble considering some of the passers they'll be going up against.
The Falcons will face New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees twice in a three-week span. Then almost immediately after that, they get Tom Brady two times in three weeks. That probably won't bode well considering those two guys have thrown more passing yards than anyone in the history of the NFL.
I know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a huge question mark. Brady's getting old. He's on a different team than the Patriots. And Rob Gronkowski, well, who knows? But I think Bruce Arians will cook up some magic down in the bay that should give the Falcons defense (which ranked the 10th worst in terms of points per game last season) all kinds of problems.
The first half of the schedule might be the easier half, but I still don't see many wins.
If you look at it by quarterbacks, you'll see why. The Falcons get to face the NFC West powerhouse Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson in a home game to start the season. That's followed by Dallas Cowboys' Dak Prescott, Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers (at Lambeau Field), Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins and Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford.
The first four matchups alone look like trouble:
- Sept. 13 vs. Seahawks
- Sept. 20 at Cowboys
- Sept. 27 vs. Bears
- Oct. 5 at Packers on ESPN Monday Night Football
Atlanta has a shot against Nick Foles and the Chicago Bears, Teddy Bridgewater and the Carolina Panthers (twice), Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos, Justin Hebert and the Los Angeles Chargers and Derek Carr's Las Vegas Raiders.
And I'm not sure there's even a point in playing out that second-to-last game against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in Arrowhead Stadium. Just forfeit that one against the AFC kings and treat it as a very late bye week before seeing Brady again.
Remember when Atlanta started 1-7 last year and then somehow finished the season 7-9? They must have taken some of Michael Jordan's "secret stuff" from Space Jam.
The way I see it, the Falcons will finish 5-11 and miss the playoffs AT BEST. The worst? Well, let's just say head coach Dan Quinn could be on the hot seat yet again. Remember, this team goes as Matt Ryan throws.
Atlanta's 16-game regular season schedule features two primetime games, a Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football showdown. The team's bye week is in Week 10, one week later than last year's bye. Here's a look at the rest of the Atlanta Falcons' schedule:
Atlanta Falcons 2020 Schedule
Sept. 13: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Sept. 20: AT Dallas Cowboys
Sept. 27: CHICAGO BEARS
Oct. 5: AT Green Bay Packers (MNF)
Oct. 11: CAROLINA PANTHERS
Oct. 18: AT Minnesota Vikings
Oct. 25: DETROIT LIONS
Oct. 29: AT Carolina Panthers (TNF)
Nov. 8: DENVER BRONCOS
Week 10: BYE
Nov. 22: AT New Orleans Saints
Nov. 29: LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Dec. 6: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Dec. 13: AT Las Angeles Chargers
Dec. 20: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Dec. 27: AT Kansas City Chiefs
Jan. 3: AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ALL CAPS — Denotes home game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Falcons 2020 Preseason Schedule
Aug. 13-17: MIAMI DOLPHINS
Aug. 20-24: AT Buffalo Bills
Aug. 28: CINCINNATI BENGALS
Sept. 3-4: AT Jacksonville Jaguars
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