Atlanta’s schedule isn’t an easy one during this coming season. We all know they didn’t get a cupcake slate, and we’ve all hopefully made peace with the fact that the beginning of the season and the end of the season both have potential to be brutal.
One of the reasons that’s the case is not just the caliber of teams the Falcons figure to face during the early and late portions of the season, but the caliber of quarterback as well. The Athletic’s Jason Butt called this out in one of his latest pieces, with a particular focus on the wave of future NFL Hall of Famers Atlanta’s going to face late. The problem is that it’s really going to be a challenge right off the bat and late, because here’s who the Falcons have to face:
Week 1: Russell Wilson
Week 2: Dak Prescott
Week 4: Aaron Rodgers
Week 11: Drew Brees
Week 13: Drew Brees
Week 15: Tom Brady
Week 16: Patrick Mahomes
Week 17: Tom Brady
Rodgers is not what he once was and Brady may not be either—and I fervently hope that’s the case—but the team’s retooling defense is going to be tested early and late in the year by these guys. Wilson and Dak to start the year is maybe the most intimidating challenge, given that both are extremely underrated and extremely dangerous, though obviously that Week 16 matchup against Mahomes has the potential be downright ugly. Brady and Brees pose less of a threat on their own—their combined age is like 85—but they have strong supporting casts and can still take advantage of shaky secondary play.
Remember, this was a problem last year, and certainly one of the major reasons Atlanta’s season was ultimately doomed. Those crushing losses to the Arizona and Houston, led by a pair of burgeoning greats in Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray, helped doom the first half of the season. Jameis Winston nearly beat them twice, too.
It’s no exaggeration to say that these games will likely be the toughest on the slate for Atlanta, and if this defense can’t get its “handling terrific quarterbacks” issue under control, guys like Mahomes, Prescott, and Wilson might just doom the Falcons in 2020.