Playing in the NFC South has made the Falcons’ schedule tougher than most in recent years. Having to the face the NFC East and AFC North this season only adds to the difficulty level.
Atlanta was faced with a similarly tough slate in 2017 and came out 10-6. With the 13th toughest schedule based on last year’s records, the Falcons have to hope for that same bit of good fortune this year. The six games against the Saints, Panthers and Bucs don’t give much room for error, and having to play the Steelers, Eagles and Packers only adds pressure. Such a tough schedule makes games against teams like the Cardinals and Ravens even more critical.
Bottom line: The breaks are few and far between for Atlanta. From top to bottom, start to finish, there are tough matchups throughout the year. The Falcons are a great team in their own right, though, and despite having to play a number of playoff teams from a year ago and a few that could make a run this year, Atlanta should be in good position to continue its recent success. Record prediction: 11-5
The defense was far from the best part of the Raiders in 2017. Oakland was 23rd in the league in total yards allowed and 27th in sacks. A lot of that had to do with the team’s pass defense, which gave up the seventh most yards through the air in the NFL.
Oakland addressed some of its secondary issues by drafting Gareon Conley out of Ohio State in 2017, but much of the consensus this year is the Raiders will once again add a playmaker on the back end.
Whether that winds up being a Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Alabama or Derwin James from Florida State, it’s likely a defensive back will be heading to Oakland.
Haynes isn’t sure whether adding a defensive back would solve all of the Raiders’ problems, but he said the team has plenty of good teachers in place to make them better.
“They have a lot of guys to call upon for help with that,” he said. “Willie Brown is still there around the facility every day working with Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders’ staff and there’s so many great players for the Raiders they can always call on them.”
Haynes, 64, succedded Brown along with Hayes in the defensive backfield for the Raiders in the 1980s. He is still involved with the NFL and is part of the league’s program on prostate cancer awareness.