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The Falcons are the early favorites to have the most difficult schedule in the NFL

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Oh, good.

After boasting a relatively easy schedule in 2015, the Falcons are going lining up for a tougher slate in 2016. How difficult, you ask? Um.

Based on 2015 records, the 49ers and the Falcons will play the toughest schedule in the NFL next season.

Records alone don't determine a schedule's difficulty, of course, and the slate could line up nicely for the Falcons with a balance of home and away games and the like. It's unlikely to, however, considering the Falcons will be playing a lot of games on the West Coast, and the quality of their opponents on paper is significantly higher than it was this past season. Of course, if you expect some regression from the Panthers and even Broncos, the schedule will be a little more forgiving, but Atlanta's going to have to get a hell of a lot better to hang with them, even so.

As a reminder, here's all of Atlanta's opponents:

Home

Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Arizona, San Francisco, Kansas City, San Diego, Green Bay

Away

Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Oakland, Philadelphia

It's one of the major reasons I believe the Falcons won't take a major step forward in terms of record this season, if they take a step forward at all. Pray they surprise me.