2017 Atlanta Falcons Home Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
For the second year in a row, we have an NFL team playing in a sparkling new stadium.
Last year, it was the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, although it didn't help that team make the playoffs. In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons move into the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a retractable roof building right in downtown. I urge you to check out some video tours of that place. It's quite something and it will host this season's College Football Playoff National Championship Game (and certainly future Final Fours and Super Bowls).
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Except that the roof on the $1.6 billion facility doesn't work as it's supposed to yet, and the Falcons won't be able to open it at the start of the 2017 season. The roof is very complex and made up of eight petals and designed to open or close in approximately eight minutes. The petals, each weighing 500 tons, slide along tracks on the roof to come together at a central point, much like how a camera operates. But the automation for the system has not yet been programmed or something of the sort. The roof is expected to work at some point this season, but for sure the Falcons' home opener it will be closed. Atlanta fans won't likely notice as the Falcons haven't played an open-air home game since 1991.
Atlanta is largely back intact on the field from last season's team that had the biggest choke job arguably in NFL history, blowing that 28-3 late third-quarter lead in the Super Bowl to the Patriots. We may find out how important coordinators are, though, as both are new. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith was replaced after that Super Bowl collapse with Coach Dan Quinn promoting assistant coach Marquand Manuel to the role. Manuel has the most familiarity with Quinn's scheme as Manuel was the assistant secondary coach for the Seahawks when Quinn was the defensive coordinator there. Manuel followed Quinn to Atlanta in 2015 as the secondary coach and senior defensive assistant.
Meanwhile, everyone on the planet knew that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was going to be hired as San Francisco's new head coach the day after the Super Bowl. He has been replaced, a bit controversially, by Steve Sarkisian. The former Washington and USC head coach coordinated Alabama's offense for one game last season and drew criticism for his play-calling in the National Championship Game loss to Clemson. Frankly, Sarkisian is in a no-win situation because the Falcons' offense was historically good in some respects last year behind NFL MVP Matt Ryan, and there's nowhere to go but down.
Atlanta was 5-3 at the Georgia Dome last season, 3-5 against the spread and 8-0 "over/under." The Falcons host three playoff teams in 2017: Green Bay, Miami and Dallas. I'd say the home slate is a bit tougher than the road. Atlanta has the 13th-toughest schedule overall with an opponents' combined 2016 winning percentage of .521. BetOnline lists the Falcons' win total at 9.5, with the over a -120 favorite. I forecast a 3-5 road record and project a 6-2 home mark so go under that total. It's possible 9-7 wins the NFC South. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 17 vs. Packers (-2.5): Sunday night. Atlanta off a likely Week 1 victory at Chicago - unless the team is caught looking ahead to this NFC Championship Game rematch. The Falcons won that easily, 44-21, in their final Georgia Dome game. Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns. Atlanta also beat Green Bay 33-32 in Week 8 on a Ryan 11-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds remaining. Key NFL betting trend: Falcons have been a regular-season home favorite six times in series and are 3-3 ATS.
Oct. 1 vs. Bills (-7.5): Falcons off a trip to Detroit and ahead of their bye. Buffalo ranked 29th against the run last season, so this might be less Ryan and more Devonta Freeman (who just got a big new deal) and Tevin Coleman. Key betting trend: Falcons have covered only one of their past five before a bye (any location).
Oct. 15 vs. Dolphins (-6.5): Atlanta comes out of its bye. Potential trap game ahead of a Super Bowl rematch in New England in Week 7. This game got presumably easier for Atlanta with the Ryan Tannehill injury. Key betting trend: Falcons 7-3 ATS in their past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 12 vs. Cowboys (-1): The Falcons are off a three-game road trip that concludes Week 9 at Carolina. This one could have home-field advantage ramifications in this year's playoffs. Had Dallas been able to beat Green Bay in last season's divisional round, the Cowboys would have hosted the Falcons in the NFC title game. These clubs last met Week 3 of 2015, a 39-28 Falcons road win. Key betting trend: Falcons 2-8 ATS in past 10 as home favorite of 2.5 points or fewer.
Nov. 26 vs. Bucs (-6.5): Short week for Falcons after visiting Seattle on Monday in Week 11. Atlanta has dropped its past two at home in this series. It was 31-24 in Week 1 a season ago. Ryan threw for 334 yards and two scores, but Atlanta too often settled for field goals in the red zone. Key betting trend: Falcons 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 3 vs. Vikings (-5.5): Atlanta lost at home to Minnesota in the last meeting, 20-10 in Week 12 of 2015 as Adrian Peterson ran roughshod. The Falcons won't have to worry about him here but will the next game on the schedule. Key betting trend: Falcons have covered just one of their past seven at home vs. NFC North teams.
Dec. 7 vs. Saints (-7): Thursday night. Drew Brees has largely gotten the better of Ryan in this series, but the Falcons swept last year. They won 38-32 at home in Week 17 to secure the NFC's No. 2 seed. Ryan was 17 of 19 for 235 yards and four scores by halftime, when the Falcons led 35-13. Key betting trend: Falcons 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 31 vs. Panthers (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 lines. This is Atlanta's fourth straight NFC South game as it comes off Week 15 in Tampa and Week 16 in New Orleans. The Falcons trashed the visiting Panthers 48-33 last year in Week 3 as Ryan threw for a team-record 503 yards and four touchdowns, and Julio Jones had 12 receptions for a Falcons-record 300 yards. They were the first pair of teammates in NFL history to hit those milestones. Key betting trend: Falcons 7-3 ATS in past 10 as home in series.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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