After my spectacular draft coverage, I would be remiss not to mention that that the Falcons improved their defense immensely the day before the draft by turning a lowly 7th round pick into a top-flight CB, courtesy of a deal to land former disgruntled Eagles CB Asante Samuel.
Seriously, where else are you going to get this much known quality for a 7th round selection? While Asante comes at a price tag far above a typical 7th round pick, adding him to the Falcons’ secondary should instantly have a positive impact on the defensive line. If nothing else, an extra second or two of shutdown coverage by Dunta Robinson, Brent Grimes, and Asante Samuel should result in a few more coverage sack gifts for Abraham, Edwards, and company.
Thankfully, Asante was willing to rework his contract to make things a little more cap friendly for the Falcons.
Falcons Get “Easy” Schedule
In my opinion, the NFC South is very strong top to bottom. Of course the Saints, even with all their offseason cheating coming to light, will remain tough. Panthers are on the rise. You have to think that the Buccaneers are not as bad as their record last year indicated, plus they have had a great off season via free agency and the draft.
With that said, the current strength of schedule rankings for the 2012 season show that Atlanta should have an easy path to the playoffs. The Falcons are at the back-half of the league in terms of strength of schedule, tied for the 24th easiest schedule. Their 2012 opponents had a 125-131 Win/Loss record, which is good for a .488 winning percentage. They will only pay 4 “quality” opponents (teams with 9 or more wins in 2011).
As a card carrying Falcons fan, I could give a crap about a speculated easy schedule; anything to put ATL over the top.
Falcons National Coverage
Speaking of the 2012 schedule, the Falcons will have four appearances on National television. Home Prime Time dates with Denver, Dallas, and the Saints, and a pre-Christmas Saturday night date in Detroit.
I’m excited about the schedule, although I wish the Falcons could land a couple of idea 4PM tailgate kickoffs. Tailgate highlights include:
Sept. 17 vs. Denver (8:30 p.m., ESPN): After playing 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and missing last season, Manning is trying to revive his career.
Nov. 4 vs. Dallas (8:20 p.m., NBC): Former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking’s celebration got out of hand after the Cowboys defeated the Falcons 37-21 on Oct. 25, 2009.
Nov. 29 vs. New Orleans (8:20 p.m., NFL Network): The Saints should have their players back from any Bounty-gate suspensions.
Dec. 16 vs. New York Giants (1 p.m., Fox): The defending Super Bowl champions have the most difficult schedule in the league based on opponents’ 2011 records.
I have never seen Oakland or Arizona in person, so that should be fun. Same for the Giants. For the second year in a row, we close out the season at home against Tampa Bay; hopefully we are resting our starters.
The Falcons schedule is full of quirks, including never playing consultative home or away games. I hate playing New Orleans twice in Nov; I thought that a Christmas week matchup would become a scheduling staple. A week 7 bye week (Oct 21) seems a little early, but it could be worse. Plus it gives me time for an Oct beach trip!