ESPN released an assessment of the strength of each NFL team's respective schedule for the 2014 season, and the Falcons have a tough road ahead of them. Of course, the Falcons two playoff teams--New Orleans and Carolina-- in the division, which skews the difficulty of their schedule right off the bat. Tampa Bay may be a surprise this season after making a very solid head coach hire in Lovie Smith.
The Falcons will go on the road to face Green Bay and Cincinnati--both playoff teams following the 2013 season, and both teams that have remarkably good records at home.They'll also hit the road to take on Minnesota, Baltimore and the New York Giants.
Arizona's defense seems to have cracked the code to disrupting Matt Ryan's game, and the Falcons will take them on in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons will also welcome the Browns to Atlanta, and Cleveland is a bit of an unknown with a new head coach for the coming season. The Bears and Steelers will also visit the Falcons in Atlanta. There's another wrinkle to the Falcons' "home" slate of games for 2014, in that there's a game that's technically not a home game at all. The Falcons will take on the Detroit Lions in London, England next season.
ESPN has the Falcons' strength of schedule for 2014 calculated as the 11th-toughest schedule in the league for next season. This is based on opponents' win percentages in 2013, which averages out to .512 for Atlanta's 2014 opponents. Per these calculations, Atlanta's schedule is by far the most challenging in the NFC South--Tampa Bay is the closest with opponents' 2013 win percentage averaging .484.
The home slate of games looks to be a little easier for the Falcons. Their home opponents averaged an even .500 winning percentage last season, making it the 17th-toughest home schedule for next season according to current calculations. Their away schedule is tied for 11th-toughest with the Patriots and the Jets, with opponents averaging a .523 win percentage last season.
Are you concerned about Atlanta's strength of schedule for next season? Does it matter?