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Predicting the Falcons’ 2019 season: Can Atlanta return to the playoffs?

Graphic by Pat Pryor

Written by: Joe Carlino @joecarlino14

We’re almost at the beginning of the regular season, ladies and gentlemen. That means we’re nearing the final overall predictions from various media outlets about how each of the 32 clubs will perform in the NFL’s 100th incarnation. Today’s team: the Atlanta Falcons. Coming off a 7-9 season where the team was ravaged by injuries, head coach Dan Quinn cleaned out the coordinators and brought in three new faces. Will these new (some familiar) faces return Atlanta to the postseason? Here’s Blitzalytics’ official Falcons 2019 game-by-game prediction:

  • Falcons bye week: Week Nine

Week One: @ Minnesota Vikings

Atlanta opens up the season on the road against Kirk Cousins and the VIkings. Last time these teams met up, Atlanta lost 14-9 at home with Dalvin Cook on IR. He’s back, so the run game will be there. Atlanta squeaks out a victory here against a competent team, aided by a late Cousins turnover.

Record: 1-0

Week Two: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons’ home opener transpires on Sunday night against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. While Matt Ryan has struggled against this squad (0-3 in last three matchups), he has beaten them on his grounds. Like Week One, it’s close, but no Nick Foles magic enables Atlanta to obtain revenge for the two losses suffered in 2018 to Philly.

Record: 2-0

Week Three: @ Indianapolis Colts

The first real test Atlanta will face comes against one of the two organizations they’ve struggled against historically. Yes, the Andrew Luck retiring saga does put a dent in Indy’s chances to win this contest, but Jacoby Brissett might just find a way to succeed against the Falcons’ D. Their first loss of the 2019 season comes against Indianapolis.

Record: 2-1

Week Four: vs. Tennessee Titans

A matchup of the two highest-paid left tackles in football was marred when Taylor Lewan was unfortunately handed a four-game suspension which includes this contest. I’ve had more faith in Marcus Mariota leading a team than Jameis Winston, but no real protection for his blind spot combined with a lack of competent supporting cast (sans Derrick Henry and Dion White) allows Atlanta to gain their first win of the season against the AFC South, while also reversing their record from 2018 at the end of the first quarter.

Record: 3-1

Week Five: @ Houston Texans

A wide receiver battle between two of the top-5 in the NFL currently at the position. Hopkins has emerged recently, and was even the first to have over 100 receptions without a drop, something Julio hasn’t even come close to achieving. No Lamar Miller brings a question about the Texans’ ground game, and reports of Clowney being traded don’t give Houston a good outlook here.

Record: 4-1

Week Six: @ Arizona Cardinals

Another matchup for Atlanta in which a prominent member of their opponent is struck down by a suspension. In Arizona’s case, it’s cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was almost undoubtedly going to be covering Julio (and failing like last year). This will be Atlanta’s first official look at rookie Kyler Murray and Kingsbury’s new offense, and while it will be effective for the most part, Atlanta’s will be better.

Record: 5-1

Week Seven: vs. Los Angeles Rams

The return of former Bulldog Todd Gurley II to Atlanta as the (controversial) NFC champions visit in a critical mid-season battle. This game will ultimately come down to two factors: is Gurley 100% and can Atlanta stop the DPOY in Aaron Donald? I’m not so sure about the second option, and Los Angeles takes this contest.

Record: 5-2

Week Eight: vs. Seattle Seahawks

Another tough contest sees Atlanta face NFC West opponents in consecutive weeks. The good news is they’re both at home. The bad news: both teams are highly competent opponents who will be competing for a postseason spot. Russell Wilson will be the X-factor here, and Atlanta goes into their bye week on a two-game losing streak.

Record: 5-3

Week Ten: @ New Orleans Saints

Coming out of their bye week, Atlanta begins their real test of this campaign: five straight matchups against teams in their own division. First up: the bitter rival Saints in the Superdome, where Atlanta hasn’t naturally played well. That said, last season’s game there was marred by four turnovers, which won’t be the case this time around. Atlanta gets back in the win column here.

Record: 6-3

Week Eleven: @ Carolina Panthers

The second contest in the Falcons’ NFC South gauntlet is a road matchup up in Charlotte against the Panthers. This game will ultimately come down to if Cam is fully healthy and if Atlanta can stop McCaffrey from running roughshod on them. They’ll stop Cam, but not “Run CMC”.

Record: 6-4

Week Twelve: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Game three of the NFC South gauntlet sees the Falcons ironically begin a three-game homestand against their division. This will be Atlanta’s first time seeing Tampa’s squad with Bruce Arians at the helm. However, Dirk Koetter will be out for blood against the team he was fired from, and Atlanta wins this contest by at least two scores.

Record: 7-4

Week Thirteen: vs. New Orleans Saints

For the second straight season, Atlanta plays the Saints in primetime on Thanksgiving Day. When these two teams last played in Atlanta, the Saints won a shootout in overtime which saw Ricardo Allen go down with an Achilles tear. He’s going to come back with a vengeance in this contest, and he will recover a late turnover to vindicate what was robbed from him last year.

Record: 8-4

Week Fourteen: vs. Carolina Panthers

The Falcons wrap up this incredible NFC South gauntlet at home against the Panthers. This game will ultimately determine who wins the division because both teams will be entering with identical records. Atlanta emerges with a late victory, ending this five-game stretch with a 3-2 record and some breathing room to win the division.

Record: 9-4

Week Fifteen: @ San Francisco 49ers

Atlanta travels out west to face their former division opponent prior to the realignment in the 49ers. Like the matchup against the Cardinals, this will be Atlanta’s first time seeing Jimmy Garoppolo in action leading a team, while also reuniting with former OC Kyle Shanahan and running back Tevin Coleman. Atlanta travels nearly 5,000 miles round trip, but comes back to the East Coast with a loss.

Record: 9-5

Week Sixteen: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

To wrap up the 2019 home season, Atlanta plays host to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This time, however, they will be facing Nick Foles, who left Philly in the offseason for Duval County. In this game, Matt Ryan shuts Jalen Ramsey up from his GQ comments last year, and with Carolina losing this week, Atlanta clinches the NFC South for the first time since 2016.

Record: 10-5

Week Seventeen: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After winning the division by record in Week Sixteen, Atlanta travels six hours south to wrap up the season against the Buccaneers. While they most likely won’t be in contention for a bye in the NFC, Atlanta will enter the postseason while simultaneously making a statement against Tampa: don’t underestimate their squad or coaching staff.

Record: 11-5

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