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5 key takeaways from the 2018 Atlanta Falcons schedule

Odd primetime games, a nicely placed bye week, and more.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Falcons’ schedule dropped a little earlier this evening, and now that we’ve had some time to digest it, we’ve got some important takeaways from this slate. In no particular order, here’s our initial thoughts on the schedule, which looks very different from 2017’s.

#1: They landed weird primetime games

The Falcons last year had a ton of primetime games, or so it seemed. This year, they have exactly three, two of which come before their Week 8 bye (more on that in a moment) and two of which are Thursday Night Football games on the road. That’s sub-optimal in the extreme.

It doesn’t help that both the Thursday night games are against brutal opponents, with the Eagles looming in Week 1 and the Saints hosting Atlanta on Thanksgiving night. Those would be tough games if they were at home at 1 p.m., but playing on the road during a short week (against the Saints, at least) makes them look like they’ll be two of the tougher games the Falcons play all season.

The good news? The third primetime game is a Monday night contest against the Giants in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which on paper promises to be one of the easier games Atlanta will play all year.

#2: The bye week is well-placed

Ideally, the bye week would have been even later in the year, considering that six of Atlanta’s final nine games are on the road. But as it’s smack dab in the middle of the season in Week 8, following that Monday night game against the Giants, it should be a welcome reprieve before the back half of the season. Hopefully Atlanta can use it to ensure they’re healthy for their two game road swing against Washington and Cleveland immediately following the bye.

#3: The Falcons need to start hot

Coming into the bye week, the Falcons have a legitimate chance to be anywhere from 5-2 to 7-0. They have two rough road matchups against the Eagles and Steelers, but they also get all three NFC South opponents at home, the Bengals at home, and the Giants at home. If they can play the Eagles and Steelers really tough, as I know they can, they could walk into the bye undefeated, though it’s obviously many times more likely they’ll drop at least one or two along the way. Any record in the range I mentioned above will be extremely helpful as they navigate their last nine, when they have to play every division rival on the road and travel to Lambeau to play the Packers late in the year.

#4: That back nine is potentially brutal

Atlanta’s been a fine road team in recent years, and they’ll need to be to make their playoff push post-bye. The Redskins and Browns will be relatively easy road games, as they go, but capping off the year with road games against the Packers, Panthers and Buccaneers in three of the last four weeks means a fatigued team isn’t getting many breaks. The only bright note here is that a few of the final nine are easy games on paper, including Cleveland, Washington, Baltimore, and Arizona.

#5: This slate won’t break the Falcons

Every schedule presents its own unique set of challenges, and this one has a handful of exceptionally difficult games, especially that Thanksgiving Saints road game on short rest. But with the reasonably-placed bye, the number of opponents either rebuilding or looking like mediocre teams, and Atlanta’s still-strong talent base, there’s nothing here that makes me fear the season will be lost. So long as the Falcons can show improvement from their up-and-down 2017, I’m bullish on their potential this season, even if I really wish I didn’t have to write about at least one game while stuffed to the gills with turkey.

We’ll start breaking out some of the most interesting games and do a full-blown series of predictions post-draft, but for now, we’re interested to hear your thoughts on the schedule. Do share.