Atlanta Falcons: Game-by-Game Predictions for the 2nd Half of the Season
But eight weeks later, here they are, sitting atop the NFL at 7-0 after a sound 30-17 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, just nine games separate the Atlanta Falcons from a perfect season, and more importantly, the playoffs.
So what lies ahead for this Falcons team? Here are projections for every remaining game on their schedule.
Week 9 vs. Dallas Cowboys
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The Falcons have already beaten two NFC East teams this year, and they'll be looking to make it three next Sunday.
Records suggest the 7-0 Falcons will roll over the 3-4 Cowboys but don't be fooled: Dallas' last two losses were by three and five points, respectively.
The Falcons figure to have their hands full in this one, as Mike Nolan has the tough task of slowing down Tony Romo and his seventh-ranked offense, while Dirk Koetter will need to call his best game yet as he prepares to take in the league's fourth-ranked defense.
But if the Falcons play like the team that stomped down the Eagles 30-17 and not like the one that needed late-game heroics to beat the Redskins 24-17, this Sunday Night Football showdown should be theirs for the taking.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Cowboys 28
Week 10 @ New Orleans Saints
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The Falcons' schedule doesn't get any easier as they, then, travel to the deafening Superdome to battle with hated rivals—the New Orleans Saints.
Sean Payton's Saints have had the Falcons' number since he became the head coach in 2006, winning all but two of 12 head-to-head matchups.
But, there will be no Payton this time around, and as we've seen, so far, that has left the Saints in disarray.
Nonetheless, Drew Brees has played some of his best games against the Falcons, and there's no reason why he won't do so again in this matchup.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Saints 30
Week 11 vs. Arizona Cardinals
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The Arizona Cardinals looked to be among the league's top potential contenders after starting the season 4-0.
Then, they followed that up with three consecutive losses.
Making matters worse for the Cardinals is the loss of Kevin Kolb to rib injury, potentially for six weeks or more according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
That should make things easier for the Falcons, who remember very well what happened the last time they faced Kolb and will be more than happy to face John Skelton instead.
But a lot can happen between now and Week 11, and the Cardinals shouldn't be overlooked—not that Mike Smith ever does, though, which should lead to an easy win for the Falcons.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Cardinals 13
Week 12 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The last time these two teams met, the Falcons bulldozed their way past a dispirited Buccaneers team 45-24 in the final game of the 2011 season.
This one has the makings of a much closer contest.
The Bucs are playing with a purpose under new head coach Greg Schiano, and it shows: From never giving up against the Giants to crushing the Chiefs better than even the Falcons did to stonewalling a talented Minnesota Vikings team, Tampa Bay has come to play this season.
The key to their offense, so far, has been a dominant running game led by Doug Martin, which happens to be the Falcons' biggest weakness on defense.
That weakness hasn't yet led to a Falcons' loss, but it finally could catch up to them in this Week 12 matchup.
Prediction: Buccaneers 23, Falcons 17
Week 13 vs. New Orleans Saints
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In what may be the most anticipated NFC South divisional matchup of the year, the Falcons invite the Saints to the Georgia Dome for a Week 13 prime-time game on Thursday Night Football.
If New Orleans is able to get back in the mix by the time these two teams go head-to-head for the second time this season, this game could become all the more interesting.
It'll be yet another quarterback's duel with Brees and Ryan each potentially going touchdown-for-touchdown.
Only this time, it'll be the Falcons' turn to come out on top—and it won't be close.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Saints 21
Week 14 @ Carolina Panthers
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In their third consecutive divisional game in as many weeks, the Falcons will close out their season series with the Panthers on the road in Carolina.
The Panthers' high hopes in Cam Newton's second year in the league are already all but gone after starting 1-6 on the season.
That has already led to the firing of general manager Marty Hurney, and he might not be the only one gone by this Week 13 game if the Panthers' woes continue.
Newton and his dual-threat ability is always something to be concerned about, but the Falcons shouldn't let the game get as close as their nail-biting 30-28 comeback victory earlier in the season.
Prediction: Falcons 21, Panthers 10
Week 15 vs. New York Giants
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Perhaps, no game has greater implications for the Falcons than this one.
Playoff seedings up for grabs? Check.
A chance to beat a true "elite" team, as all the pundits have said the Falcons have yet to prove they can do? Check.
The opportunity to get revenge on last January's embarrassing playoff loss? Check.
Every Falcon has this game circled on his calendar, and it should, no doubt, make for their toughest battle of the season.
Atlanta has the advantage of playing this one at home in the Georgia Dome as opposed to on the road in cold, but that won't stop the Giants' pass rush from being as relentless as it has been all season.
But, you have to believe the Falcons rise to the occasion, winning a tight game and giving them the confidence they need to go deep in the playoffs.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Giants 21
Week 16 @ Detroit Lions
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Of course, before they can start thinking playoffs, they first have to play two more games on their schedule, the first of which is a date with the Lions on Saturday Night Football.
The Lions, while just 3-4 and in last place in the NFC North at the moment, could still turn things around and be right in the playoff hunt by this game.
The Falcons will be tested by Matt Stafford's explosive receiving corps, which should give them a good idea of what they could be facing in the postseason.
Ultimately, though, Ryan and his own trio of talented pass-catchers should score enough points to put the Falcons on top and keep them there by this game's end.
Prediction: Falcons 36, Lions 28
Week 17 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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If everything goes the way of these predictions, the Falcons should be virtually untouchable atop the NFC South at 13-2 with one game to go.
That should have Ryan and the Falcons' other big-named players making no more than a brief appearance in this game as they get a head start into their first-round bye.
That will leave it up to undrafted rookie Dominique Davis to lead Atlanta against a Tampa Bay team which may still be playing for one of the NFC's last playoff spots.
It might make for an ugly loss for the Falcons, but it won't matter with nothing but the postseason on their mind at this point.
Prediction: Buccaneers 26, Falcons 10