Written by Pat Pryor
“The Gridiron”. When people say that, not only is hard-hitting football brought to mind, but where it takes place is. Jim Brown pounding through the mud for touchdowns. Or Tom Brady winding up (or maybe not) in the driving snow during the “Tuck Rule” game. There will be few if any, moments like that this year for the Atlanta Falcons. They open the season indoors at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium and then play 10 more weeks in closed or retractable stadiums. Yes, the Falcons don’t play in an open stadium until week 10 in North Carolina against Cam Newton and the Panthers, so there has to be a pattern, right? Let’s find out. We’re going over every game in the past four years (Dan Quinn’s reign) and seeing how they fare outdoors versus indoors.
To begin with, Dan Quinn has led the Falcons to a 36-28 record in the regular season, going 3-2 in the postseason. We begin our journey in 2015. Matt Ryan was entering his 8th season, and Julio Jones was entering his 4th. Jones, RB Devonta Freeman, CB Desmond Trufant, and FB Patrick Dimarco would head to the Pro-Bowl after the team started the year 5-0, only to finish 8-8. This year would be the second to last in the Georgia Dome. 8 Games at home, 8 games inside, no retractable roof; the squad went 4-4 at home. Not a great start for an indoor/outdoor analysis. Heck, only one of these games was decided by more than 10 points. An outdoor win in New Jersey vs the Giants was the highlight early, but after an overtime win against the Redskins, they dropped 7 of their next 8 games, losing to the Saints inside and beating the Titans outside. Garnering two more wins that season, when playing inside they went 5-5; braving the elements, they ended up 3-3. This brings both indoor and outdoor records to .500, so in 2015, this really didn’t affect them too much. This doesn’t look great for Falcons fans, because they could have a very similar season playing only 3 games fully outdoors.
2015 season: Indoors 5-5 .500
Outdoors: 3-3 .500
The very next season would be an exciting but eventually crushing season for Atlanta. Unless you just started following the NFL yesterday, you know that Atlanta grabbed an 11-5 record, cruised through two playoff games and three quarters of the Super Bowl. up 28-3 with just over 3 minutes to go in the third, Tom Brady did his thing, and just about everyone in Georgia had just witnessed their team collapse worse than any Super Bowl team ever. To get there, however, they’d fight hard at the Georgia Dome eight final times in the regular season while the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was under construction. At home, they’d end up 5-3, and in their only other dome contest against New Orleans on a Monday night, they won to finish at 6-3 for the year. Outside, they went 5-2, losing to Philadelphia and Seattle. In the postseason, being the No.2 seed, they won twice at home and lost once on a neutral site (despite being the designated home team). We won’t include these stats for now, as teams play differently during the postseason.
2015-2016 seasons: Indoors 11-8 .579
Outdoors: 8-5 .615
Heading into a new season and stadium, they’d been performing better when playing outdoors, but they played six fewer games. The next season, in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they would regress, posting a 10-6 record and losing in the divisional round against the eventual champion Eagles on a chilly January evening, with temperatures reaching 32 degrees with 15 mile-per-hour winds. During the regular season, they’d improve their indoor record by 6 wins and 3 losses. Outside they went 5-2, regressing overall from last year.
2015-2017 seasons: Indoors 17-11 .607
Outdoors: 13-7 .650
In 2018, their worst season under Quinn, the team went 7-9. It could’ve been much worse after early-season injuries to multiple All-Pro players and bad luck all around in the waning moments, but despite narrowly climbing back before a dismal five-game losing streak in a critical point of the season, the team rallied with a three-game winning streak at the end. Now playing their second season in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they had losing records both indoors and out. Playing away, they would go 3-4 in stadiums without a roof. In Atlanta, and one game in New Orleans, they went 4-5. A disappointing season with a hopeful end brings us to the results of Dan Quinn inside and outside.
2015-2018 seasons: Indoors 21-16 .567
Outdoors: 17-12 .586
Following this, just by the math on indoor and outdoor, with nothing else to show, they should win two games out of three in outside environments. It actually comes out to 1.758, but we’ll round up for practicality. Indoors, they should win 7 games, which would result in a 9-7 record, which wouldn’t be the worst possibility.
Projected 2019 records: Indoors 7-6