The Falcons play their first game – albeit an exhibition – under coach Dan Quinn Friday night against Tennessee in the Georgia Dome. I spoke to Quinn Thursday and will have a full column posted later on MyAJC.com. (UPDATE: Here’s the link.)
If we’ve learned anything from past preseasons, it’s that exhibition results often mean … well, absolutely nothing. In 1990, the Falcons didn’t lose an exhibition (4-0) under Jerry Glanville, then 5-11 in the regular season. In 2011, they didn’t win a practice game (0-4) under Mike Smith but then went 10-6 in the ones that counter. (In 2013, the Falcons went 0-4 again. That proved to be accurate foreshadowing. Their regular season record was 4-12.)
The Falcons’ over/under in most Las Vegas sportsbooks is 8½ wins, but I’ve long believed that they’ll win nine or 10 games (pending injuries). It appears to be a relatively soft schedule, in part because the NFC South probably is the NFL’s weakest division. Carolina should be their strongest competition for the division title, Tampa Bay isn’t very good and New Orleans lost tight end Jimmy Graham, their second-most important player (and a Falcons’ killer) behind quarterback Drew Brees.
Using last year’s won-loss records as a gauge, the Falcons have the NFL’s easiest schedule. Their opponents had a combined record of 104-150-2 (.409). NFC South teams have four of the six easiest schedules using that metric. The bottom six: Falcons, Indianapolis (106-149-1, .417), Houston (106-148-2, .417), Tampa Bay (108-146-2, .425), New Orleans (109-145-2, .429), Carolina (111-145, .434). The six toughest schedules belong to Pittsburgh (147-107-2, .579), Cincinnati (144-112, .563), San Francisco (143-112-1, .561), Seattle (42-112-2, .559), Arizona (142-113-1, .557) and St. Louis (141-114-1, .553).
What does this mean to the Falcons?
According to the football analytics site Football Outsiders, the team with the easiest schedule going into the season over the last 10 seasons averaged 10.3 wins. Last year’s team with the easiest schedule was Houston, which finished 2-14 in 2013 but 9-7 in 2014.
That’s what recent numbers say? What say you?
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