Remember when the Falcons used to be very tough to beat at the Georgia Dome? Quarterback Matt Ryan was drafted out of Boston College with the No. 3 overall pick in 2008. The Falcons were 7-1 at home that year, followed by marks of 6-2, 7-1 (top seed in NFC playoffs in 2010), 6-2 and 7-1 (top seed in NFC playoffs again). However, it hasn't been tough to go to Hotlanta and win of late. The Falcons had their first losing season under Ryan in 2013 and won only three home games. It was the same home record in 2014 as Atlanta lost a de-facto NFC South title game at the Georgia Dome to Carolina, which cost Coach Mike Smith his job. You aren't going to be a playoff team without a winning record at home (last year's Cowboys were a fluke).
In addition to that 3-5 home record last season, the Falcons were 4-4 against the spread and same record "over/under." Atlanta's 2015 home schedule as the eighth-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .449. That's the second-hardest in the NFC South behind Carolina.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 14 -- Eagles (-1): This is the Monday night opener in Week 1. The head coaching debut of Atlanta's Dan Quinn, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator. The team wanted him so badly it waited until after the Super Bowl to hire him. The last Seattle defensive coordinator hired was Gus Bradley by Jacksonville a few years ago, and that hasn't worked out, although it's not really his fault. First meeting between the teams since 2012, and the Eagles are totally different now under Chip Kelly. Key trend: Falcons 7-3 in past 10 as a home dog of 3 points or fewer.
Oct. 4 -- Texans (+1): Atlanta comes off road games at the NY Giants and Dallas. Houston is home to Tampa in Week 3. Falcons have played Texans the least of any team, only three times. Houston visited just the once, 2007. Key trend: Falcons 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC.
Oct. 11 -- Redskins (+3.5): Washington is off a Week 4 home game against the Eagles. Quick turnaround after this one for Atlanta as it visits New Orleans on Thursday in Week 6. Last meeting between Skins and Falcons was in December 2013, a 27-26 Atlanta home win. Key trend: Falcons 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
Nov. 1 -- Buccaneers (+5.5): I have little doubt this will be the game in which Atlanta is the biggest favorite it will be all season. Falcons are off a Week 7 game in Tennessee, while Tampa is in Washington the previous Sunday. Atlanta played its best game last season by far in trashing the visiting Bucs 56-14 on a Thursday in Week 3. Devin Hester set an NFL record with his 20th return for a touchdown, Ryan threw for 286 yards and three TDs, and Julio Jones caught nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons led 35-0 before the Buccaneers picked up a first down. Key trend: Falcons 5-5 ATS in past 10 as home favorite vs. Bucs.
Nov. 22 -- Colts (-2): This follows Atlanta's bye week. Ditto for Indianapolis. That's rather unusual. No dome edge here for the Falcons as the Colts play in one themselves -- and playing indoors can be a big edge at times. Falcons have never faced Andrew Luck as last meeting was in 2011 when the Colts were terrible in the season Peyton Manning sat out. Key trend: Falcons 7-3 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 29 -- Vikings (+1.5): Minnesota is off a Week 11 game at home vs. Green Bay. Atlanta lost in Minnesota 41-28 in Week 4 last season -- I'm guessing it will be a bit colder for this game. The Falcons lost three offensive linemen to injuries and wound up using tight end Levine Toilolo at right tackle in the fourth quarter. Ryan was 25-for-41 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Atlanta led 28-27 entering the fourth quarter. Key trend: Falcons 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC North.
Dec. 27 -- Panthers (+1): Atlanta is off a Week 13 trip to Tampa, while Carolina is in New Orleans the previous Sunday. That de-facto NFC South title game was Week 17 against the Panthers last year, and Carolina rolled 34-3. I remember that result shocking me as I did expect a Falcons win. Ryan completed 29-for-47 passes for 260 yards with two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. He was also sacked six times. Key trend: Falcons 6-3-1 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Jan. 3 -- Saints (TBA): Again, no Week 17 line because too many potential intangibles on the final Sunday of the regular season. New Orleans is home to Jacksonville in Week 16. The Falcons beat the visiting Saints 37-34 in overtime in Week 1 last season. Matt Bryant kicked a tying 51-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and won it with a 52-yarder after the Saints fumbled the ball away on the second play of overtime. Ryan threw for a franchise-record 448 yards with three TDs and no picks. Jones caught seven for 116. Key trend: Falcons 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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