The 2013 NFL schedule was released yesterday, and Alex covered the details yesterday. It's not surprising that it's a more difficult slate of games than the Falcons had in 2012. After finishing the 2012 regular season 13-3, the Falcons should have a relatively strong schedule.
The strength of schedule calculations that were released prior to the 2012 season saw Atlanta tied with the Redskins and the 49ers at 24th in the league. The teams Atlanta played last season cumulatively finished 2011 with more losses than wins, for a strength of schedule calculation of .488. The 2011 records of Atlanta's 2012 opponents resulted in the assessment that the Falcons faced only four quality opponents in 2012.
This year, the preseason strength of schedule estimates for the Falcons give them the 15th most difficult schedule in the league. The Falcons opponents for 2013 cumulatively finished with more wins than losses in 2012, and with six games on the schedule with NFC South teams that all finished 7-9, that's saying something. Their total strength of schedule calculation for the coming season is .504.
It won't be an easy road for the Falcons, as they open the season on the road in New Orleans and face five playoff teams from 2012, the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Redskins and 49ers. But, the Falcons have improved the team overall with their free agent acquisitions, and still have the draft ahead to address remaining needs.
As per usual, the talking heads on NFL Network generally think the Falcons can't deal with their tough schedule. Willie McGinest predicts the Falcons will go 8-8. McGinest also, for some reason, listed the Falcons as a reason for naming the NFC South the toughest division in football for the coming season. It's all very logical. Eric Davis thinks the Falcons can't win a game in Miami in September because it will be hot. Eric Davis has apparently never been to Atlanta, and, specifically, has never attended training camp in Flowery Branch.
Despite strength of schedule calculations, and despite what the analysts say, they still have to play the games. The Ravens had the 4th most difficult schedule in the league last season and they ended up winning it all.
What do you think about the difficulty of the Falcons schedule for 2013?