This may not be the Falcons focus at all right now, but there's no reason we cannot take a glance into next season while we await the playoffs.
In 2011, the Falcons finished second in the NFC South with a record of 10-6 and made the Wild-Card Round of the NFC playoffs. There's no reason that the Falcons cannot be better in 2012 than they were this season.
The Falcons got off to a slow start in 2011 and never really played their best football until the last game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Falcons are able to sure up their defense some and get an offensive lineman in the draft, then they can definitely compete for the NFC South next year.
The NFL schedules always consist of a home and away game against division opponents, which means the Falcons will play against Carolina, Tampa Bay and New Orleans at some point in 2012.
This season, the Saints finish as the NFC South champions with a 13-3 record and will be playing in the Wild-Card Round as well. The Panthers and Buccaneers both missed the playoffs but have the potential and talent to challenge the Falcons next year.
The Falcons should be able to sweep the Buccaneers and split their games with the Panthers and Saints. That would place the Falcons at 4-2 after division play.
The Falcons have been pretty good on the road in the past, and they will be playing in Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego next year.
Atlanta should be able to win games against the Redskins, Chiefs and Chargers in 2012, but they may end up losing or splitting games with the Eagles and Lions. That would place the Falcons, at best, with a 4-1 record on the road outside of divisional play.
The Falcons should be able to overpower the Redskins, Chiefs and Chargers with their offensive weapons and also play great defense against these teams. The games against the Eagles and Lions should be pretty even matchups, but for now, we can say these games would be split.
So far, we have the Falcons at 8-3 in division games and on the road.
The Falcons should be able to take down Arizona, Denver and Oakland with ease. However, Dallas and New York could both pose problems for the Falcons. If they were able to split games with these two teams, then that would also place the Falcons at 4-1 at home in 2012.
This would lift the Falcons overall record to 12-4 on the season.
I believe that this is an absolute best case scenario for the Falcons. I could honestly see the Falcons around the 9-7 area as well. It all depends on how the Falcons start the season and if they're able to keep pace with the other NFC juggernauts.
The Falcons should have another playoff season on their hands in 2012 because the talent and potential is there, but it's up to the Falcons to get to that point.