The 2011 Falcons will open the year on the road against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and play three of their next four games away from home. Each of their first five opponents finished above .500 a year ago, and it won’t get any easier in their only two home games in that span as they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. It is very likely that Atlanta will play three 2011 NFC division winners through their first five NFL Picks games in the Eagles, Packers, and Seattle Seahawks, and they will also face a tough Vegas Odds challenge in the first of back-to-back road games during that span when they clash with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If they can manage to withstand that early onslaught there will be a bit of a reprieve with a home game against the Carolina Panthers and trip to take on the Detroit Lions preceding their bye week, but once week nine comes around it will get difficult once again. The Falcons will have an extra seven days to prepare for a road date against the Indianapolis Colts in week nine, but will then have to come home to face their biggest challenge in the NFC South with a visit from the New Orleans Saints. The Saints will be the first of three straight home games, with the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings the next two. Whether or not the Titans or Vikings will have a quarterback that can manage the pay per head offense by then only time will tell, but both will be competitive if they do.
That home stand will eventually give way to another streak of three road games in four weeks, with trips to face the Houston Texans, Panthers, and Saints broken up only by a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Falcons will play New Orleans and Tampa Bay in consecutive weeks to close out the season, and those two games could very well determine which one finishes on top of the division. With the MLB betting Braves engaged with the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, the Falcons won’t get any sympathy with challenges from the Saints and Buccaneers, and how they perform in the division will be huge. If they can survive the early onslaught they might have a shot, but only time will tell as the Falcons get set for another run. A division title isn’t out of the question, but a lot will depend on how the rest of the division fares as it’s unlikely that Atlanta will do better than 10-6 with such a tough NFL schedule.
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