August 9, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) and the rest of the offense huddles around quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Atlanta Falcons 2012 Schedule Preview: Birds Look To Rise Up Under New Coordinators

The Falcons enter 2012 once again looking dangerous, once again looking like a playoff team, and once again hoping for a longer stay in the postseason.

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Atlanta Falcons Schedule Preview, Week 5: Birds Face Mega-Hyped Robert Griffin III

After presumably stomping on Cam Newton at home in week four, the Falcons will gear up and take to the road again. Their opponents this time: the rebuilding-mode Redskins, led by some Baylor grad that worked at Subway.

2011 Record: Finished 5-11 (missed playoffs)
Noteworthy Stats: The Falcons have won three out of their last four contests with the Redskins. The most recent one was a 31-17 win at Washington.
Key Additions: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Josh Morgan, FS Brandon Meriweather, CB Cedric Griffin
Key Losses: FB Mike Sellers, FS O.J. Atogwe, SS LaRon Landry, first-round draft picks in 2013 and 2014

After enduring the John Beck/Rex Grossman fiasco that was 2011, village idiot Dan Snyder gave up a lot for RGIII.

Now don't get me wrong: I think Griffin will be a good NFL quarterback. But the national media (ESPN) has hyped-up Griffin way beyond reasonable expectations. Cam Newton didn't get this much hype. Andrew Luck, arguably the better QB in the 2012 draft class, has received comparatively less attention.

But last season, the Falcons were 5-1 against rookie quarterbacks. Mike Smith's defense picked off those QBs a total of six times. Griffin is a rookie.

Combine that with a Redskins rushing defense that gave up almost 118 yards per game last season and a secondary that has seen a lot of turnover this offseason (Tarnard Jackson has a strong chance of starting at safety), I think you'll see that this is a game the Falcons should come out of this one alright.

Verdict: Win
The new-look Skins offense should put up a fight, but this is a team still in rebuilding mode. The Falcons, on the other hand, remain a top-tier team in the NFC, and they play well against Washington.

For more on this game Falcons fans should visit The Falcoholic and Redskins fans should check out Hogs Haven. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.


Atlanta Falcons Schedule Preview, Week 4: An NFC Opener With Carolina

After a three-week stint against the AFC West, the Falcons will head home and open NFC South division play against the rival Panthers.

2011 Record: 6-10 (3rd in NFC South, missed playoffs)
Noteworthy Stats: In two starts against the Falcons, QB Cam Newton has thrown five interceptions to only two touchdowns, and failed to top 50 yards rushing in either contest.
Key Additions: FB Mike Tolbert, S Haruki Nakamura, OG Mike Pollak, LB Luke Kuechly (draft pick)
Key Losses: RB Mike Goodson, OG Travelle Wharton, OT Jeff Otah, TE Jeremy Shockey

As far as the I-85 rivalry goes, the Falcons have had all the success in recent years, winning six the eight contests in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era in Atlanta.

The real key to this game, and really to the Panthers 2012 season, is which Cam Newton shows up to play. After throwing for almost 2400 yards in September and October, Cam Newton only managed 1600 yards in the months of November, December, and January. His completion rate dropped, as did his passer rating, in that time span as well.

Will it be the stellar rookie that lit the league on fire over the first eight games? Or the one that regressed over the second half?

My money is on the latter. I think Cammy Cam's in for a sophomore slump. Defenses adjust to rookie success, and the Falcons in particular have shown the ability to force mistakes out of the Auburn alum.

And there's also the Carolina defense, which left a lot to be desired in 2011. The addition of first-round pick Luke Kuechly should improve their play against the run, but the interior line and secondary still have some question marks.

Verdict: Win

The Falcons, now without Corey Peters, will have a tough time stopping the run in this one. But having said that, I think the offense runs wild on a secondary that lacks talent outside of Chris Gamble, and Atlanta wins decisively.

For more on this game Falcons fans should visit The Falcoholic and Panthers fans should check out Cat Scratch Reader. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.


Atlanta Falcons Schedule Preview, Week 3: Battle With Rivers On The West Coast

Continuing with their tour de AFC West, the Falcons will take on the Chargers in a winnable week three away game.

2011 Record: Finished 8-8 (missed playoffs)
Noteworthy Stats: No. 28 pass defense, No. 17 run defense in 2011.
Key Additions: WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, LB Jarrett Johnson, LB Demorrio Williams, FB Le'Ron McClain, DE Melvin Ingram (draft pick)
Key Losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert, DT Luis Castillo, G Kris Dielman, OT Marcus McNeill

The Chargers of last season were a team of disappointment and injury. Country-fried QB Philip Rivers, despite surpassing 4500 yards through the air, threw a career-worst 20 INTs and fumbled the ball seven times behind an O-line that had its fair share of problems.

They lost their top receiver in Jackson and are attempting to replace him with Meachem and Royal (not quite the same). Still, Rivers will likely bounce back from a rough 2011 and the offense should be fairly potent, despite some real questions on the O-line after the retirements of McNeill and Dielman.

The defense, however, remains a major soft spot. Their pass defense, especially their secondary, is a real concern for Chargers fans. CB Quentin Jammer is getting up there in age, and other starter Antoine Cason has yet to really live up to his first-round billing.

For the Falcons, I believe this game to be very winnable. They certainly match up well against San Diego's defense, and I expect Matt Ryan to have a huge game. I also expect Mike Nolan's defense to really bring the pressure on Rivers and the weak offensive line around him.

It's also worth mentioning that the Falcons are 7-1 against the Chargers all-time, and won in San Diego as recently as 2008.

Verdict: Win
The Falcons play impressively and win by a touchdown, making them 3-0 on the season.
Do I sound like a homer yet?

For more on this game Falcons fans should visit The Falcoholic and Chargers fans should check out Bolt From The Blue. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.


Atlanta Falcons Schedule Preview, Week 2: Monday Night Duel With Peyton Manning

If I could think of one game on the Falcons schedule that jumps out at you and screams "this is huge," well, a Monday Night Football matchup at home against the Denver Broncos would be really hard to top.

2011 Finish: 8-8 (45-10 loss to New England in playoffs)
Noteworthy Stats: Had No. 1 rushing offense, No. 31 passing offense in the NFL
Key Additions: Some guy with a big head, CB Tracy Porter, TE Joel Dreessen, TE Jacob Tamme
Key Losses: Some Christian quarterback, S Brian Dawkins, CB Andre Goodman, DT Broderick Bunkley, WR Eddie Royal, FB Spencer Larsen

Denver is down one Tim Tebow, but they added a Peyton Manning to replace him at quarterback. This was a team that made the playoffs and possessed a very capable defense in 2011, but an offense that boggled minds with its inconsistency and inability to score before the fourth quarter.

That offense is now commanded by perhaps the best QB to ever play the game. But will he be the MVP Manning of the 2000s, or will we bear witness to a hollow version of the all-time great?

To answer this question, I'll turn to baseball for help. Adam Wainwright, a pitcher whom was considered by many to be a Cy Young snub two years ago (20 wins, 2.42 ERA), missed all of the 2011 season following Tommy John surgery.

He came into 2012 "fully healthy," according to his manager, but (predictably) started off slow. His velocity was there, but the control wasn't. An ERA of 4.56 before the All-Star break, compared to a 2.32 ERA afterwards, tells it all. It took Wainwright almost four months before he was finally pitching at the expected level, at peak performance.

And that was one surgery. Manning had four surgeries on his neck, at age 36 no less. Four! He missed an entire season of football. He's playing for a new coach on a new team with new receivers. Chances are, he'll be rusty.

With dome-field advantage and the national spotlight on Atlanta, look for the Falcons to step up big.

The new-look offense and the red-hot Julio Jones should match up well against a secondary that features an aging Champ Bailey, Porter, and two unproven guys at safety. And the defense should be able to contain Manning just enough to win by a score or two.

Verdict: Win
Another close one, but a rusty Manning combined with home-field noise should be the difference for the Falcons.

For more on this game Falcons fans should visit The Falcoholic and Ravens fans should check out Baltimore Beatdown. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation'sNFL hub page.


Atlanta Falcons Schedule Preview, Week 1: Season Opener In Arrowhead No Joke

The Falcons will open their 2012 season in Kansas City against an underrated Chiefs team.

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