A Futile and Pointless Exercise: Guessing the Hawks' record next year:
St Louis Rams
San Francisco 49'ers
St Louis Rams
San Francisco 49'ers
New York Giants
Wow, the Hawks, by getting to the playoffs, really made things harder for themselves next year. By winning the division, you ensure yourself a tougher schedule, and the Hawks are going to be playing some elite teams in 2011.
If I'm being generous, just looking at that schedule, it looks like right off the bat my (probably not realistic) guess would be 9 wins. At 9-7, the Hawks have a legitimate chance for the playoffs again, but would need to get lucky and have the other NFC West teams suck as much as they did in 2010 again. Here is how I could see it going (keep in mind I'm assuming that Matt Hasselbeck with be the QB starting for the Hawks... barring that, it's really REALLY impossible to try and guess how they'll do):
Wins at Home:
Arizona (2010: 1-7 on the Road) - Arizona, even if they somehow get a new franchise QB, have a ton of holes. Their defense is terrible. Mike Williams will again dominate (22 catches for 232 yards against in two games in '10), and the Hawks should handle them at home.
St Louis (2010: 2-6 on the Road)- The Hawks showed that they can beat the Rams at home last year, and should repeat that again this year. Sam Bradford will be learning a new offense, may be suffering from the sophomore slump, and their receiving corps is thin. They are a good team, but young and beatable.
San Fran (2010: 1-7 on the Road)- They are a big question mark - depends what they do at the QB position, but they still have a lot of talent. Will be a tough game, the Hawks will have to play well and not turn the ball over. This game is winnable though.
Washington (2010: 4-4 on the Road)- No QB in place - a lot of holes on the team. Inconsistent last year on defense: the Redskins were 2nd to last in total yards given up at 389 a game. Their pass defense was 31st in the league and their rush defense 26th. They were also in the lower third on Offense, their rushing attack ranked 30th in the league. Overall, a winnable game.
Cincinatti (2010: 1-7 on the Road) - Same story, their team is in rebuild mode, especially without Palmer, Ochocinco, and Owens not returning.
Wins on the Road:
Arizona (2010: 4-4 at Home) - Arizona is beatable on the road. The Hawks will have to force turnovers and win the field position game. But winnable.
St Louis (2010: 5-3 at Home) - could be a really tough game; we were blown out last year in St Louis, but overall it is a game we could win. Again, Hawks will need to play well, it will not be a waltz. Control the line of scrimmage and keep the defense off the field, and they will be in good shape.
Chicago (2010: 5-3 at Home) - will be tough, but not a huge stretch. The Bears are beatable at Soldier Field. Culter is a huge question mark, but get him out of his game and don't allow Hester to make any big plays and the game could be in hand.
Cleveland (2010: 3-5 at Home) - again, tough, but should be a win. They will have inconsistent quarterback play, very young and green receivers, and their defense is not elite. Holmgren and Shurmur will have them ready to play though, and it will be a close game. The Hawks will have to contain Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty in the rushing attack. I think Cleveland will surprise people this year, but they are still a beatable team on the road.
Losses at Home:
Philadelphia Eagles (2010: 6-2 on the Road) - Vick will be back, they have L.McCoy, D.Jackson, and a young nucleus of stars. At this point, I don't see the Hawks being able to contain the Eagles' offense enough to get a win.
Atlanta Falcons (2010: 6-2 on the Road)- A good defense paired with Ryan/White. Again, the Hawks' D will have trouble competing with the Falcons' O and will be unable to contain Roddy White.
Baltimore Ravens (2010: 5-3 on the Road)- Just too good of a team - extremely robust defense with a very good offense. Hawks will fail to get a running game going, have to play from behind, and will turn the ball over. Most likely a blow out.
Losses on the Road:
San Fran (2010: 5-3 at Home) - Too talented of a team to sweep. Again, depends on who they have at QB, but I think they will be a very tough team this year. Hawks struggle on natural grass (@San Fran, @Oakland, @Tampa Bay, @Chicago in 2010). I doubt this will change much this year. Something to keep an eye on though.
Dallas (2010: 2-6 at Home)- last year was a fluke. They started putting it together under Jason Garrett later in the season and will have Romo back. Will be a very hard team to beat, although they were a much better road team than home team in 2010. Hopefully they have a serious identity crisis again in 2011.
New York Giants (2010: 5-3 at Home)- We all saw what they did when they came to Qwest last year - They have a tough defense, and possess a very good offense, albeit inconsistent at QB. If Manning struggles, could be a close game, but that will need to happen for the Hawks to have a chance.
Pittsburgh (2010: 5-3 at Home) - Just too good. Small chance we could pull out a win out there against a stout run defense and an effective offense that balances its rushing and passing attack well.
Well, that would put that Hawks at 9-7. I know what you're probably thinking: way too generous, in reality. This early, it's impossible to guess how it will go. I'm just bored mostly and why not try and guess? Anyway, I believe the Hawks will get better this offseason and compete for the West. I think they will continue to improve playing on the road. They will improve as an offensive unit, and hopefully they can plug a few holes on the defensive line. Injuries are always a HUGE factor.
They will have to win as many of their 'winnable' games as possible. They'll inevitably lose one or two of those games, but they could also surprise a team or two along the way: who expected us to beat San Diego last year? (thank you Leon) Most people probably didn't expect us to beat the Bears on the road, either. I'm glad the Falcons are coming out here next year, that could be a game. Hopefully it will be a cold, blustery day and Matt Ryan will struggle. The Falcons were unbeatable at home but not immortal on the road. Anything can happen at Qwest. Playing at Dallas is always fun, and could be an interesting game. I don't believe they are unbeatable at all. The Giants were inconsistent at home, and Peyton's brother has been known to implode.
All in all, the NFC West will be much improved overall in 2011, I believe. 7-9 will NOT win the division. There will be no squeaking into the playoffs again.
God I can't wait for the draft, the offseason sucks.