While I didn't think the Atlanta Falcons would beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, I sure as heck was rooting for them to win the first title in franchise history - and obviously they should have won before the biggest collapse in the game's history.
Perhaps we should have seen the loss coming because all NFL MVPs since to reach the Super Bowl all lost in it. Ryan was the third such MVP to do so this decade, joining Cam Newton (2015 season) and Peyton Manning (2013). I also probably don't need to tell you about the Super Bowl Curse for the losing team. It happened in a big way with Newton's Carolina Panthers last season. No Super Bowl loser since the Buffalo Bills in 1993 has rebounded to make it back the next season. Many miss the playoffs.
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Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has a big job in front of him. While the core of the team is back, it's not easy to avoid a Super Bowl hangover for a game you should have won. Ask Seattle's Pete Carroll. The Seahawks should have beaten New England in SB XLIX if not for a horrific play-call at the Patriots' 2-yard-line in the final seconds. That Seattle team fought that loss the entire next season but did make the playoffs. It hasn't been the same since, though.
Quinn isn't running from the Super Bowl devastation as his motto for the coming season is "Embrace the Suck." His thinking: "Eat a crap sandwich with a smile. This is going to be hard. Your choice: It's a victim's mentality or a warrior mentality. It's like, 'I know this run is going to be long, and it's going to be really hard. But here I go again.'"
If anyone should know about dealing with such a loss it would be Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator of that Seattle team in 2014. He was hired as Atlanta's head coach the morning after the Seahawks' loss to the Patriots.
Ryan & Co. were 6-2 on the road last season (one game better than at home), 5-2-1 against the spread and 7-1 "over/under." Atlanta travels to three playoff teams in 2017: Detroit, New England and Seattle. I project a 3-5 record. One positive I do note here is that there are no potential outdoor cold-weather games for the dome Falcons after Nov. 20. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 10 at Bears (+6, 51): Nice cure for a possible Super Bowl hangover is facing a 3-13 Bears team that will have Mike Glennon under center in his first NFL start since 2014. The Falcons have lost the past two meetings, most recently in 2014. Key trend: Falcons 6-4 ATS in past 10 at NFC North teams.
Sept. 24 at Lions (+1.5): This could be a major letdown game with Atlanta coming off opening its new Mercedes-Benz Stadium the previous Sunday night in an NFC title game rematch vs. Green Bay. Atlanta has won its past two trips to Ford Field, most recently in 2012. Key trend: Falcons 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as a road favorite vs. anyone of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 22 at Patriots (-6.5): Sunday night matchup, and it starts the toughest five-game stretch of the season for Atlanta, which includes a home showdown vs. Dallas on Nov. 12. This is arguably the biggest game of the 2017 regular season as the Falcons look for Super Bowl payback. Bit of homecoming for Ryan, the former Boston College star. Key trend: Falcons 1-9 SU but 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 6.5 points.
Oct. 29 at Jets (+7): How will this not be a trap for the Falcons off the Super Bowl rematch?Then again, this will be the Falcons' biggest QB mismatch of the season with Ryan against whomever the Jets will be playing by this point. Key trend: Falcons 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Nov. 5 at Panthers (+1): Our past two MVPs square off. Atlanta swept Carolina last year, and it was 33-16 in Week 16 in Charlotte. Ryan threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He set an NFL record in the game by completing a TD pass to his 13 th different receiver of the season. Key trend: Falcons 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road favorite in series.
Nov. 20 at Seahawks (-3): Monday night, with Atlanta off that Cowboys game. I suppose it could be cold in Foxboro or East Rutherford on Oct. 22 or Oct. 29, but this looks to be the Falcons' best chance for a lousy weather game in 2017. This is the final 2016 playoff team the Falcons face as five of the remaining six are inside the NFC South. The Falcons lost in Seattle 26-24 in Week 6 last year on late field goal. Ryan had three TD passes, all in the third quarter. Key trend: Falcons 1-4 SU as a regular-season dog in Seattle but 4-1 ATS.
Dec. 18 at Bucs (+1.5): Monday night. Atlanta on plenty of extra rest after closing a three-game home run vs. New Orleans on Thursday in Week 14. The Falcons won 43-28 at Tampa on a Thursday night in Week 9 a season ago. Ryan threw for 344 yards and four scores. Julio Jones had eight receptions for 111 yards and a TD. Key trend: Falcons have won seven straight as road favorite in series (6-0-1 ATS).
Dec. 24 at Saints (pick'em): Obviously a short week for Atlanta. Always fun to see Ryan and Drew Brees go at it. Brees had gotten the upper hand in a big way in the rivalry until last year when the Falcons swept. It was 45-32 in the Big Easy in Week 3 on a Monday night. Tevin Coleman rushed for three touchdowns. Key trend: Falcons 5-5 ATS in past 10 at New Orleans.
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