ATLANTA — The Chicago Bears have sponsored a cool contest in recent years, challenging their fan base to correctly guess all 17 weeks of the Bears' schedule for that season -- including the bye week.
The grand prize: Two premium tickets to every game on Chicago's schedule (home/away).
At last check, the Atlanta Falcons don't sponsor a similarly alluring contest for their fan base. However, that won't stop us from doing the research and educated guesswork ... on predicting the Falcons' 2019 schedule -- minus the drudgery of forecasting byes.
For the record, we're not expecting perfection here, or anything even close to faux-contest domination.
What are the chances of going 10 of 16? Extremely long; and frankly speaking, we'd be thrilled to nail six weeks, factoring in time slot and opponent.
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FALCONS' PREDICTIVE 2019 SLATE
1 - @ Colts
2 - vs. Eagles
3 - vs. Panthers
4 - @ Texans
5 - @ Buccaneers
6 - vs. Jaguars
7 - @ 49ers
8 - @ Cardinals
9 - vs. Titans
10 - vs. Seahawks
11 - @ Vikings
12 - vs, Saints
13 - vs. Rams
14 - @ Saints
15 - vs. Buccaneers
16 - @ Panthers
THE METHODS TO OUR MADNESS
WEEK 1 – The Falcons have opened with an NFC opponent for six straight seasons (2013-18).
Within that factoid, they're absolutely due for a non-conference opener.
As for the Colts ... the Falcons' two non-conference openers since 2010 have both come on the road (Pittsburgh, Kansas City).
So, we'll just make an 60/40 assumption of choosing Andrew Luck (Colts) over Deshaun Watson (Texans).
NOTE: The NFC South takes on the AFC South this season (Titans, Jaguars at home ... Colts, Texans on the road).
WEEK 2 – In the original version, we had the Falcons traveling to the 49ers, but Pro Football Talk has reports of Atlanta hosting Philadelphia in Week 2.
So, we'll make the necessary change.
For the record, though: We're not big fans of scheduling leaks. Just let it play out come 8 p.m.
WEEK 3 – We were very tempted to choose the Rams for this spot, as part of a prominent home opener on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
However, with Mercedes-Benz Stadium serving as the venue for Eagles-Falcons in Week 2, we'll happily delay the Rams showdown until December.
WEEK 4 – Four of the Falcons' last six games for Week 4 have involved a non-conference opponent.
If this trend holds up, it would mean only three options for Week 4: Texans (road), Jaguars (home) or Titans (home).
In the interest of home-road balance (at the quarter-pole mark), let's have Atlanta travel to Houston and fulfill its road obligations with the AFC South.
WEEK 5 – Since the creation of the four-team NFC South in 2002 (Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Carolina, New Orleans), the Falcons and Buccaneers have locked horns in October only three times.
In other words, when charting this countdown's off-the-wall predictions ... the Week 5 educated guess might be the most baseless of the bunch.
WEEK 6 – For this home spot, let's roll with the Jaguars, who will likely be underrated when the season starts, despite having a solid base of young talent and stability at quarterback (Nick Foles).
WEEK 7 – I have the Falcons slated for five home games during the second half of the season.
So, let's give Atlanta a chance to knock out trips to San Francisco and Arizona over back-to-back weekends.
WEEK 8 – Who could blame the Falcons for finding fault in a stretch of four road games in five weeks (or six, if there's a bye somewhere in between)?
Of course, the Falcons had five of their first seven at home last season; and that didn't really help Atlanta's playoff cause.
On the bright side, this quirky configuration gives the Falcons five home games after Week 9 ... including three straight in December.
WEEK 11 – Strange fun fact: Atlanta has never played an October game in Minnesota.
WEEKS 11-12-13-14 – Assuming the Falcons are prime contenders for the NFC South crown or a wild-card berth, the four-game run of Vikings (road), Saints (home), Rams (home) and Saints (road) should be attractive to prime-time networks ... or those carrying big games in the 4 p.m. EST Sunday window.
NOTE: We're hearing rumors of a Saints-Falcons game on Thanksgiving Night.
WEEKS 15-16 – The Falcons have closed the regular season with back-to-back NFC South games for five straight years (and seven out of nine times).
We'll stay with that model one more time ... and ride the Buccaneers (home) and Panthers (road) for Weeks 16 and 17.