Posted: 6:00 am Monday, February 17th, 2014

Falcons climb out of basement will be tough in 2014 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Despite finishing in last place in the NFC South, the Falcons will have the 11th toughest schedule entering the 2014 season.  CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

Despite finishing in last place in the NFC South, the Falcons will have the 11th toughest schedule entering the 2014 season. CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com

The Falcons will have an arduous climb out of the basement of the NFC South in 2014.

After going from the No. 1 seed in the conference to last place in the division, the Falcons will have the 11th toughest schedule in the league next season and play one of their home games on the road at a neutral site in London.

The 2014 strength of schedule is based on the 2013 winning percentage of all the clubs on a team’s 2014 schedule.

With two games each against Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa, the 2013 winning percentage of Atlanta’s 2014 opponents is .512, the 11th toughest schedule in 2014.

The Falcons only plays six games against teams with losing record in 2013.

Normally, finishing in last place leaves teams with an easier schedule than other division foes.

Tampa Bay, which was also 4-12, has the league’s 19th most difficult schedule (.484).

Carolina, which won the division last season, has the 22nd toughest schedule (.473) and New Orleans, the second-place team, has the 23rd toughest schedule (.469).

2014 AWAY GAMES — Carolina (12-4), Tampa Bay (4-12), New Orleans (11-5), Green Bay (8-7-1), Minnesota (5-10-1), Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (11-5) and New York Giants (7-9).

2014 HOME GAMES — Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Detroit (in London) (7-9), Chicago (8-8), Cleveland (4-12), Pittsburgh (8-8) and Arizona (10-6).

The home game against Detroit in London’s Wembley Stadium is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014.

Last season, the NFL released the full schedule with dates, times and national television appearances on April 18th. With the draft pushed back to May 8-10, the schedule release date could also be pushed back.

The last time the Falcons finished in last place was in the 2007 season under Bobby Petrino and interim head coach Emmitt Thomas. The team went 4-12.  

Coach Mike Smith, in his first season with the team, flipped the record to 11-5 to finish in second place and earn a wildcard playoff berth.

Here’s the team’s record under Smith:

2008 — 11-5 – Second place – Wildcard playoff team

2009 — 9-7  – Second place – Did not qualify for playoffs

2010 — 13-3 — First place, No. 1 seed in NFC for playoffs

2011 — 10-6 — Second place, Wildcard playoff team.

2012 – 13-3 — First place, No. 1 seed in NFC for playoffs.

2013 –  4-12 — Last place — Did not qualify for playoffs

40 comments
SimpleReason
SimpleReason

There is no climbing, The Falcons start 0-0 just like every other team in the NFL.  They have their strengths and weaknesses like every other team in the NFL.  The Falcons have a good Quarterback.  This elite garbage is just fodder for discussion.  Ryan is good enough to win multiple Super Bowls.  The Falcons have an elite group of receivers, two good kickers, a solid running back, and pieces on defense.  They need to draft both lines of scrimmage, early and often.  If going from 13-3 to 4-12 is possible then so is going from 4-12 to 13-3.  It's the NFL.  Look at the Falcons record the last 6 years.  Which season is the outlier?


Settle down.  They need solid offensive lineman and a pass rushing defensive end.  They have good cap space and draft picks.


And never ever listen or take lip from a fan of the New Septic Tank Aints.  That hole in the earth is economically irrelevant and it's fans are bitter that they have to live there.  Take stock of how many are still living in Atlanta.  They Love the Aints.....they just have no interest in going home.  Can you blame them? 

JSSN
JSSN

Gabe Carimi? Whoa, if you thought Baker was a bust, wait till you get a load of this one! 

Troy13
Troy13

This is a honest evaluation but I think it would be true no matter what their schedule would have been. I figure this though, it will not be long until we know if someone will keep or lose their job. We will know more After the draft and free agency deals are done. But for sure everyone starts out with that same record then you go from there. We will see.

TonyBarletta
TonyBarletta

This is true, but keep in mind going from worst to playoffs can be done (Kansas City). The other teams in the NFC South have easier schedules because they play The Falcons twice. That's 2 games against a 4-12 team from 2013. Whereas the Falcons play 4 games against 2013 Playoff Teams in New Orleans and Carolina. 

And all teams in a division play the exact same teams except for 2 GAMES. So the Falcons schedule only differs from their divisional opponents as to which NFC West & which NFC East team they play. That's the only difference in schedules.

Leviathan
Leviathan

IMO what will make this "climb out of the basement" even more difficult is the extremely conservative nature of the front office in it's building of this roster. Dimitroff wants to build this team through the draft and that is the right way but when you do pull from free agency you have to hit on your choices and he has failed to do so. Couple failures in FA with failures in high and mid round draft picks and you have a team with no offensive and defensive line talent. This organization seems to be proud of the fact that they don't make big splashes in FA but when the need becomes too great they overspend on mid level talent because they have failed to solve the issue in the draft. You can not build a team solely through the draft if you are incapable of proper evaluation of draft prospects. This team needs to make a "big splash" in free agency and sign proven playmakers that other coaches evaluated properly but can no longer afford to compensate. How many times have we seen Dimitroff select some guy in the 5th or 6th round that he could have sign 2 days after the draft was over? Dimitroff needs to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just draft talented football players. If a guy is weak at the combine guess what, he is gonna be weak on Sundays.(Konz) If a guy is injury prone in college guess what, he is probably gonna be injury prone on Sundays.(Pariah Jelly) If a RB is 30 yrs old and typically RB's fall off a cliff at that age then guess what, they probably will decline after you sign them. (Steven Jackson) If a HC that has won 2 Super Bowls is using a DE as a situational pass rusher only then guess what, that's probably all he's gonna be for you on Sundays.(Osi) Stop over thinking this stuff Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff. You are NOT smarter than everybody else. You can't pull talent out were others could not and you don't have a special talent for prospect evaluation. That all was a myth that some believed for a couple of years however when you were riding the back of one Michael Turner. All of this "football IQ" bull they have been feeding us means what exactly? Do you see guys out there playing like they have high football IQ's? I see guys playing like they don't know what to do a lot of times. The more I listen to Dimtroff talk about what type of players he wants, the more I think this guy is really in over his head in evaluating football players. All of these words like "rugged" and "gritty", who uses these words? A nerd that needs mathematical equations to evaluate players...that's who. Yes this climb will be a steep one folks. Sorry to say. On another note, who really cares of Matt Ryan is elite or not? If he really was would there be any discussion? Think about it.  Matt is not elite and neither is this front office and coaching staff. Matt may become elite if the coaching staff or front office changes but as of right now he's just a very good QB on a team that has failed to develop 2 of the most basic yet important core groups a winning football team needs. An offensive and defensive line. Paul Harvey...good day!

Intruder
Intruder

Attempting to predict a team's success or failure based on what your opponents did the previous season is pure folly and on the verge of nonsense, although I appreciate DOL keeping us up to date on the Birds.

nycfalconsfan
nycfalconsfan

The Falcons didnt finish last in the division,they finished 3rd.  That is why we are playing the Cardinals next season and not the Rams.  We have a better draft pick than the Buccs because 1) draft oder is not affected by division record, and 2) the Falcons had an easier strength of schedule in 2013 and finished with the same record as the Buccs. 

ryesouvie
ryesouvie

@SEEN... Kinda of like your prediction that LSU was going to embarrass UGA, Saints were going to go 13-3 and that they were going to beat Seattle in the playoffs...LOL. Good luck with all the defensive players you released winning the division this year! Go Falcons!

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I'm confident the Falcons will be able to score points against other teams. My problem lies with-- does coach Mike Smith get it. He has to be able to run the ball an stop the run. Also they have to put a good defensive product on the field, coupled with a decent offensive line. I don't want to see Matt Ryan throw the ball fifty times a game.

GT2008
GT2008

@zuzu331 You do realize that free agency doesn't start until mid-March and the draft is almost 2 months after that. Outside of cutting players to free up cap, which we've already done, what would you expect Dimitrov to be doing? This is talent evaluation time, and with Pioli on board I expect things to be far better. 

TheRealJay
TheRealJay

Playing two playoff teams a total of 4 times will skew the strength of schedule stat.

zuzu331
zuzu331

Agree with Seen-The Parity in the NFL is like never before and with personel moves and wholesale coaching changes this numerical 'strength of schedule' is meaningless-They will not be the same teams come September.


If Smith and Company want to keep their jobs the Falcons need to be VASTLY different. So far I have seen Dimitroff actually patting himself on the back and Smith accepting no responsibility at all for the complete collapse of this team. Two Line Coaches were NOT responsible for last season-give me a break!

This is not good Leadership.



Camaro-Bob
Camaro-Bob

The onoly way the Falocns finnish in fist palce thie year is if they drat Johnny Fottball. 

SeenDatB4
SeenDatB4

The "toughest schedule" or strength of schedule argument only holds true if everybody in the league does exactly the same next season as the previous season.  Does that ever happen?  EVER?  Every team will be different and injuries always come into play throughout the course.  So throw SOS out the window!

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

The only reason the Saints and Carolina have the 23rd and 22nd toughest schedules is cause of the  skewed results stemming from playing the sorry falcan'ts and bucs, TWICE each. 

One thing is already certain: the falcan's will be in last place in the division next year, all by their sorry-arse selves.   

GEAUX SAINTS!!!

Dman
Dman

If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Bring them on. Rise up...

DumbandDumber
DumbandDumber

I believe it is two games within your conference (against the two divisions you do not play against), so you will get 4th place teams from the "off" divisions in your conference. Can't ask for much more than that.

Okeetee
Okeetee

Not that tough of a schedule.  All of our home games are winnable and we will be favored in all of them. Plus, Minnesota, Baltimore and the Giants on the road?  All 3 teams are floundering and beatable!  We should win 10 games and at least make the big dance! 

knudegard1
knudegard1

Previous record has very little to do with next schedule. Only two games each year.

The rest are set by the rotating division schedule already in place. You play your division, an AFC division and a NFC division. Then two games based on SOS.

SeenDatB4
SeenDatB4

They are not bringing him in saying he's going to start (like Baker). They are bringing him for competition purposes. Chill out.  He's not a washed up 12 year vet.  He's only 3 years in the league.  Nothing to get worked up over.  He may not even make the team.  Who knows?  Sometimes I wish they wouldn't even report these signings because people like you lose their minds.

JSSN
JSSN

@TonyBarletta  

A last place or 3rd place schedule is not going to help the Falcons in 2014. Playing the AFC North in 2014 takes away the normal benefit. They also face the danger of multiple late season trips to bad weather cities (Green Bay (8-7-1), Minnesota (5-10-1), Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (11-5) and New York Giants (7-9) ) as 5 of the 8 away games fall into that consideration. The Vikings are outdoors now. Take it from any of us who went to a game at the old Met, you want no part of Minnesota after Thanksgiving!

Leviathan
Leviathan

@TonyBarletta Chiefs have decent offensive and defensive lines too. You can't base the argument solely on whether other teams have done it unless the other teams have comparable levels of talent. The coaching staffs are not even comparable. Andy Reid out coaches Mike Smith 9 out of 10 times on any given Sunday.

JSSN
JSSN

@nycfalconsfan  

Yes, the Bucs held the tie breakers in drafting order over the Falcons due to strength of schedule. The Falcons finished this past season with a weaker SOS .553 to Tampa's which was .574. However, "Division" and "Conference" do count if the SOS is "equal!"

Source: NFL Rule Book

"If ties exist in any grouping except (2) above, such ties shall be broken by strength-of-schedule. If any ties cannot be broken by strength-of-schedule, the divisional or conference tie-breakers, if applicable, shall be applied. Any ties that still exist shall be broken by a coin flip."

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

 LOL!  3rd? 4h?  LOL!  Is that what you're detailing?   LOL!   And you're talking about me being pathetic!!!  Hey Kettle!

GEAUX SAINTS!!! 

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

@ryesouvie @Ryesovie, you defensive know nothing, who can't the Saints replace?  Will Smith? He didn't play a single, not one second, of football for the Saints last year.   Jon Vilma? He played one game, actually less than one game, not a loss of significance.  Roman Harper?  He was inactive for 8 games last year, he was a back up, not a loss of significance.   Jabari Greer, okay, I'll say Jabari was a key loss, but  he  turns 32 this year, and he had a horrendous knee injury, so his release was going to happen, he can be replaced, and I believe his replacement is already on the roster, with the return of PRobison from IR.  And if he's not ready, Greer can be replaced via the draft.  The Saints are in great shape defensively, but you go on believing that they are hurting defensively.

GEAUX  SAINTS!!!

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

@DarlaLewis Then again, you were confident that the falcan'ts were going to have a winning season last year!   LOL!

GEAUX SAINTS!!!!

zuzu331
zuzu331

@GT2008 @zuzu331 Im well aware of when free agency and the draft are-thanks anyway.Who cares? 

Smith and DIMITROFF havent acknowledged this past season,at all,anywhere.They remain convinced of their superior 'football IQs' and are too mired in their own arrogance to even admit they could possibly be wrong.

This from the Oct 1 2013 AJC:

Falcons’ Dimitroff, Smith defend moves, remain confident

This from the OCT 7 2013 AJC:

 At some point, maybe general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith must acknowledge that they miscalculated how well their revamped offensive line would perform this season.

Thats my point. In any sane universe after this past nightmare of a season the Head Coach and General Manager should be eating some serious humble pie and looking for ways to Improve.Neither Smith or DIMTROFF have admitted to any flaws or any miscalculation at all,and thats scary.It doesnt bode well.

BTW,Tech sucks,but like the little green lizard says,everybody knows that.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Tess.....I like Johnny Screwball, but giving that kid the keys to the City would backfire.

Buckhead Brett "Favor" all over again.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Seen......Classy move by the Saints treating Roman Harper like a dog.

That guy gave blood, sweat, tears & Championships to NO & Peyton treats him like garbage.

He was the best defender y'all had on the Field in Seattle this year.

Whacking Harper in favor of Malcolm Jenkins will haunt the Saints.

JSSN
JSSN

@Dman  

Excluding 2010 first half of the season, they've never pulled that off under Smith. His record against above .500 teams is abysmal!

JSSN
JSSN

@DumbandDumber  

If those teams were bad, sure! You're getting the Cardinals and the Bears, and they were two of the teams not afraid of road games! The Falcons are playing the 3rd place because of more conference wins in 2013 than Tampa. Scarier thought, you think that Dome is not going to be home crowds for Pittsburgh and Chicago match-ups?

JSSN
JSSN

@Okeetee  

Sorry, the Falcons calling somebody else "floundering" is crazy talk. 

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

@Okeetee LOL!   All your home games are winnable?!   Ah ha, ha, ha, ha!!!

JSSN
JSSN

@BigCrimson75  

It ain't 1991 Atlanta when the coke, crack, crank, and liquor was flowing like money to Deal's family!

SeenThatB4
SeenThatB4

@BigCrimson75 LOL!  Yeah, like you know anything about defense. LOL!   RHarper was a backup for the majority of the year, and getting paid like a starter.  The only reason he even played in Seattle was cause Kenny Vaccaro was out with an injury.  The NFL is a business, not a charity. 

Your team is hardup for defensive talent, y'all should give Roman a call.

GEAUX SAINTS!!!