The Atlanta Falcons will attempt to return to the playoffs and, at minimum, their 2008-2012 run of winning records in 2014. Now we know who they will have to get through for that return to happen, and when they will face each 2014 opponent. The 2014 Falcons schedule is here.
Week 1: New Orleans Saints (9/7, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 2: @Cincinnati Bengals (9/14, 1 p.m., CBS)
Week 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Thursday 9/18, 8:25 p.m., CBS)
Week 4: @Minnesota Vikings (9/28, 1 p.m., FOX
Week 5: @New York Giants (10/5, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 6: Chicago Bears (10/12, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 7: @Baltimore Ravens (10/19, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 8: Detroit Lions (10/26, 9:30 a.m., London, FOX)
Week 9: Bye Week
Week 10: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11/9, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 11: @Carolina Panthers (11/16, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 12: Cleveland Browns (11/23, 1 p.m., CBS)
Week 13: Arizona Cardinals (11/30, 4:05 p.m., FOX)
Week 14: @Green Bay Packers (12/8, 8:30 p.m., ESPN)
Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers (12/14, 1 p.m., CBS)
Week 16: @New Orleans Saints (12/21, 1 p.m., FOX)
Week 17: Carolina Panthers (12/28, 1 p.m., FOX)
Primetime games: 2. Thursday night home vs. the Buccaneers and Monday night at the Packers.
Strength of schedule: .512 (11th toughest)
A reminder that the league can flex schedule games starting in Week 5 this year:
Big change: Sunday night flex scheduling that used to start in week 11 now will kick off in week 5, per NFL.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 23, 2014
On balance, this schedule is probably about average. There's plenty of tough opponents on the slate, the London "home" game doesn't help and there's a couple of rough mini-runs in there—the most notable being the Detroit game, a bye week and then two straight away games—but if the Falcons truly are an improved team in 2014, they should be able to navigate all of that. I wouldn't be overly concerned based on this schedule, but again, it's on the Falcons to play at a high enough level to avoid wrecking.
What you're seeing this year is what you'll see most years, as far as the NFL schedule goes. If nothing changes with the way the league calculates these, you can expect the Falcons to play one AFC division per season, a rotating NFC division, the typical six games against the NFC South and two games against NFC teams who finished in the same spots in the standings as they did. Pretty easy to piece together, and that means we're pretty sure we know the bulk of the 2015 and 2016 opponents. Per the official site:
While we're at it, here's the 2014 preseason schedule for the Atlanta Falcons:
Week 1, August 7-10: Miami Dolphins (8 p.m., ESPN)
Week 2, August 14-18: @Houston Texans (7:30 p.m., CBS Atlanta)
Week 3, August 21-24: Tennessee Titans (8 p.m., CBS Atlanta)
Week 4, August 28: @Jacksonville Jaguars (7:30 p.m., CBS Atlanta)
Weigh in on the schedule in the comments, and be sure to vote in our poll!