Scheduling history suggests Falcons will win 10 games

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn would be quite happy if recent scheduling analytics work in Falcons’ favor. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn would be quite happy if recent scheduling analytics work in Falcons' favor. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn would be quite happy if recent scheduling analytics work in Falcons’ favor. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

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.

Via Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders:

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That’s what recent numbers say? What say you?

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Reader Comments 0

38 comments
MikeS777
MikeS777

IDK, the NFL is much harder to predict from year to year than say CFB.  The NFL is a more level playing field.  The draft, free agency and cap issue cause things to shift around from year to year.   Hence the fact that last year was the first year anyone has won the NFC South in back to back seasons.

Looking at the Falcon's schedule, they get the NFC East, AFC South, San Francisco, and Minnesota on the rotating schedule.

I see 6 losses just in that bunch alone.  When's the last time you saw the Falcon's handle the NFC East other than Washington?  Dallas, Philadelphia, and the Giants are games the Falcons typically lose no matter what the records are.  I don't know how to expect a win out of paying SF and Indianapolis.  I think Houston could be a loss as well.  The last time the Falcons played Minnesota, Bridgewater destroyed them.

So really that 10 wins could be busted before you even talk about the division games, which could be much tougher than you think.  Carolina still has that defense, and NO still has Drew Brees and an offense that is always dangerous.  If they raise their play on the other side of the ball, the NFC South quickly becomes a tough division again.

Earhardnt_Fan
Earhardnt_Fan

LOLOLOLOLO!!!!! They will when 10 4 the next 2 season

PeterSuli
PeterSuli

With their schedule (baring injury), they should easily win 10 games. Keep in mind they lost 2 games last season because of bad timeouts called at the end of the game. Carolina depends too much on Cam who is extremely beat up. They were also given a pass by playing Arizona last season in the playoffs who used their 3rd string quarterback. 10 is a conservative estimate with our schedule.


A real gauge of where the Falcons are at will be when they play the Cowboys. That's a team built to compete for the Super Bowl this year.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Jeff, what happens when you write an article about the Dawgs? Will it go to DawgNation? Or just be lost?

HotDawg
HotDawg

We can still comment without Facebook?

I feel so priveleged. Thanks AJC.

Now how about fixing that for UGA articles. Why should it matter that it's a different division of "Cox media"? It's still the freaking AJC!!

HotDawg
HotDawg

And the Falcons still suck. They're on a rebuild like the Braves.

Not enough players to truly compete.......yet.

William Boyette
William Boyette

Well if what you say is true . Then explain to me why the Birds had 2 bad years . From what you say then they should have won 10 games last year 

Dman
Dman

Injuries is why...

Wilbo
Wilbo

JSSN, I like your post about Meadowlands style beatdown.


Schultz and Brat Li are too intellectually inadequate to grasp the lasting significance of 24-2.


I'd be willing to bet cash money any foray into the playoffs following the 2015 campaign would bring nothing but a HUGE Falcons embarrassment.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Hey, idiot, did it ever cross your feeble little mind that the quality of the roster and the quality of the coaching and the winning vs losing attitude of the team might somehow have a larger impact on the team's end results than will scheduling history.


You are an incredibly stoopid arse.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@William Boyette There is stupid and then there is STOOPID! The dimwit Schooltzie went beyond just plain ol' stupid a long, long time ago

BigHittas
BigHittas

10-6 would be my guess as well. With just a little improvement on D and some decent clock management last yr, Smitty might still be here.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Are we counting pre-season?

Dman
Dman

One other note, every team on your list since 2005 had an improved record or at least 10 wins the next year except one. (SF in 2007). So this could be a great season for our Birds unless we suffer the big injuries again like the last two seasons.

SeanLB
SeanLB

I just hope they get tough.  I'm tired of all of our sports teams being soft and folding up like a lawn chair.



CedricM
CedricM

8-8 or 9-7 at best---too many gaps on that roster from all the draft bungling and free agent mistakes

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Well, there are 16 games on the schedule, so yes, they could win 10. Smith's record and Blank's expectations have set a very high bar - Quinn's team has to win the Division this year or otherwise he has clearly failed to meet expectations.


Can they? Reserving judgment until I see the defense and revamped o-line, but on paper I'd give them a 50/50 shot.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DawgDadII

Actually, Smith's record the past two seasons set a very low bar.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@DawgNole @DawgDadII  I would contend Smith got more out of the Falcons the past two years than three-fourths of the other coaching staffs in the NFL could have accomplished. Despite clock management issues that cropped up, Smith in his tenure proved he is an excellent NFL head coach. Quinn has huge shoes to fill. Remember, in Smith's inaugural season he (1) won with a ROOKIE QB, (2) won with a rebuilt offensive line, and (3) won with a team virtually all the experts and analysts and even many fans believed was dreadful and destined for a losing season. We shall see what Quinn can do. I'm rooting for his success.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DawgDadII @DawgNole

As a response to my comment, what Smith did prior to the past two seasons is completely irrelevant.

Getting "more out of the Falcons" doesn't mean a damn thing when you post consecutive losing seasons and fail to make the postseason.

I've been rooting for the Falcons' success since they began play in 1966. With ZERO championships during their entire half-century of existence, there hasn't been a whole lot meaningful to root for.

esfritzi
esfritzi

Why is Tommy "Thomas" Dimitroff still around. Didn't he have anything to do with the lackluster performance of the Falcons over the years? I think he needs a raise so that he can afford a decent haircut and some new blades to shave. He must have been kissing some serious butt to have watched Mike Smith get canned and him still standing.

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

@esfritzi  Since his opinion now carries no weight with Quinn, let him stick around.  He can't hurt the franchise any longer under this new Baltimore Ravens model front office set-up.lol  That was the craziest most surreal press conference in Atl sports history.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Quackmeyer

Let him stick around???

Hell no!

He's a loser, and if there's anything ATL pro teams don't need on the premises, it's more losers!

RogerBurke
RogerBurke

If they win 10 then I'll win the lottery


WagonWheelWillie
WagonWheelWillie

I think the goal at this point should be to get past the first round of the playoffs, shouldn't it?   Just beat the Panthers & Saints, then get on with post-season

JSSN
JSSN

@WagonWheelWillie

That doesn't get you to the playoffs, last year proved that one. People like Schultz are saying they are going to either pull off a sweep of the NFC South or at worst go 5-1 again and sweep the AFC South to get to 10 wins. That crap is gonna get you a Meadowlands type beat down again in the postseason!

jettison
jettison

I'd like to believe it, but our Falcons have a way of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I hope your prediction is right, of course!

DoubleEE
DoubleEE

I can see 9-7/10-6 if they can avoid the injury bug.

dawgs01
dawgs01

I agree at least ten games for the falcons reason being building off the article is bc of the coaching staff and a lot of defensive players are entering their third yr on the team and we have gotten better on defense. I like our free agency pickups bc we got guys who need the money and we did not give it to them so they got to play hard. Our linebackers are vastly improved Durant can be a star if he stays healthy and we have got quality depth on defense at a few positions something we have been lacking. Alford and trufant should be so much better with any resemblance of a pass rush and the saefties will be better. Years three thru five are when players can really burst onto the scene not everyone takes over in years one and two but we have guys who have steadily been improving. The o line is my biggest concern just bc outside of a couple there's not much talent their. Our receiving corps looks to be the best poisjont group on the team. I like the backs and the zone running scheme may help out o line and the fact that the passing game calls for alot of pocket movement that too may help the o line. I like our running backs can't wait to see Freeman and colemen healthy and running. We finally have at least average speed on defense and elite speed in areas on defense. We were down right slowest in the NFL in some areas on defense. I like crazy Jarrett and the hagemen up the middle and that's were it all starts on defense if you can penetrate the interior pocket you can make negative plays and its gonna help bc Beasley is gonna get in the backfield so you got to have pressure coming from the inside or other side. Anyway I have faith in the falcons this hr unlike last hr I did not want to watch the falcons bc I and everyone knew the outcome to most games.

jcarson
jcarson

We would have won 8 last year without the clock mgt issues and we will certainly be better on defense this year.  I would expect right about 9-10 wins.

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

Ten wins....over two seasons.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

4 wins, just like USA Today said.  2 of those will be against Tampa Bay.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I see 10-6. Barring injuries of course. I'm gonna check out the first half tomorrow. I remember Smittys first preseason game. I could immediately see a real football team. Hoping for the same mañana.

OH:IO
OH:IO

I'll take the Over.


What say Lilly?

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

Um...the Houston Texans also went from incompetent coach to good coach.  Probably had something to do with their improvement.