Most will cite their opponents’ 0.454 combined win percentage in 2020 as the best thing to like. It makes sense. It’s a tangible statistic that shows how “easy” or “difficult” a schedule is. Based on schedule strength, the Falcons have the league’s third easiest schedule this season.
But the strength of the calendar is misleading. In the case of the Falcons, that only tells half the story.
While things can change in the blink of an eye, the Falcons appear poised to start the season with at least 11 (maybe up to 15) games up for grabs in the 2021 schedule.
Before we dive deeper, let’s explore the term “winnable”. By technical definition, every NFL game is “winnable”. Only two 2020 division winners – Green Bay and New Orleans – posted an average margin of victory above eight points (or one possession). Likewise, only three NFL teams lost by an average margin of more than eight points in 2020 (Detroit, Jacksonville and the New York Jets).
The majority of NFL games boil down to possession. A few selected games determine these games, and they can often go both ways.
For the purposes of analyzing an NFL schedule, I define “winnable” as a game where it wouldn’t surprise me if that team (or either team) won.
Now, the Falcons aren’t going to win every “winnable” game on their schedule. But there are at least 11 games that right now I wouldn’t be surprised if they win. Here are the 11:
Week 1: EAGLES
Week 3: @Giants
Week 4: WASHINGTON
Week 5: NYJ (London)
Week 8: PANTHERS
Week 10: @Cowboys
Week 11: PATRIOTS
Week 12: @Jaguars
Week 14: @Panthers
Week 15: @ 49ers
Week 16: LIONS
All of these teams lost records in 2020. The two competitions that stand out as the toughest games are the Cowboys and home against the Patriots. If Dak Prescott returns to form, the Cowboys should be a much better team. The Patriots can also be a more formidable opponent with a healthy Cam Newton or Mac Jones behind the center.
It will also be difficult to win these two games with these consecutive weeks.
The road trip to Santa Clara at the end of the season will be tough, and not having a real home game for 28 days in October could be mentally taxing. But the fact remains that these 11 games are very winnable.
You could argue that both games against the New Orleans Saints will be winnable without Drew Brees. In the remaining four games, the Falcons face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers twice, the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills.
Although the Dolphins have won 10 games, they weren’t a playoff team and haven’t been consistently good for a very long time. Even on the road, it’s too early to say the game is a guaranteed loss for the Falcons.
It’s not in favor of the Falcons to visit the Buccaneers in Week 2. Granted, Tampa Bay started off slow in 2020, but with a full offseason after a Super Bowl win, it’s asking too much of the Falcons to. upset reigning champions coach Arthur Smith. second game.
The rematch at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 5 will also be a tough one, but not out of reach. As for the trip to Buffalo on Jan. 2, due to the high expectations of the Bills and winters in upstate New York, it’s not a winnable game for the Falcons at this point.
Still, road games in Buffalo and Tampa Bay as the only contests where I’d be surprised if the Falcons win means there will be plenty of games available for the Falcons to win.
Again, that doesn’t mean the Falcons are going to win 15, 13, or even 11 games. They won’t win every game with one possession. Dan Quinn is gone, but the team has yet to learn how to keep the slopes.
But 11 games against teams that broke records in 2020, two games against a team in transition to quarterback (New Orleans) and another clash with a team that has only made the playoffs once. playoffs since 2008 (Miami) should give a lot of hope that the team will post its first record of victories in four years.