Believe it or not—and the passage of time is increasingly surreal to me, at least—we’ve already hit preseason...season. The Falcons kick things off on Friday night against the Lions, and there are three weeks of games to help this team get better and decide on the 53-man roster before the season arrives.
As we gear up for preseason, here’s a short primer for what’s ahead.
What’s the preseason schedule?
It’s a bit erratic.
Week 1: As I mentioned above, the Falcons play the Detroit Lions on Friday night, Aug. 12. Atlanta will be on the road and the game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET, with the ability to watch on NFL Network. We’ll have a longer primer on announcers, game time, and so forth in the coming days.
Week 2: The next game is a full 10 days later, and it’s a Monday night matchup on Aug. 22 against the New York Jets that starts at 8 p.m. ET. That one is also on the road and will be broadcast on ESPN. As I’ll cover below, the Falcons have to trim the roster down by five players the next day.
Week 3: Finally, a home game! The Jacksonville Jaguars come to town to face the Falcons on Aug. 27, a Saturday night tilt that will cap the preseason. Atlanta will then have three days to ruminate (if they want to take that long) before cutting down to the 53-man roster. And yes, a game against the Jaguars is a preseason rite of passage.
How have the Falcons fared in preseason recently?
Atlanta traditionally has both lost the bulk of their preseason games and done so in ugly fashion in recent years, with their closest loss a year ago coming by nine points. The Falcons in 2021 mostly just sought to get through preseason with starters healthy, and it showed on the field.
Even when starters have gotten time on the field, though, Atlanta has rarely been competitive. That doesn’t always translate to the season—the Falcons were a miserable 0-4 in preseason action back in 2017 and went on to make the Divisional Round, for example—but it hasn’t tended to herald great things for September and beyond. It’d be nice to see them win a couple, if for no other reason than to make the month more enjoyable.
Will we see starters this preseason?
Yes! Per Arthur Smith, the Falcons will plan to play starters more this preseason this year, which is likely welcome news for those of you hoping to see starters in action and all of us hoping this team doesn’t come out flat in Week 1.
You shouldn’t expect full games from any starters or players in line for major roles—this team isn’t going to want to expose key players to injury before the season gets rolling—but a couple of series per game seems reasonable for almost everybody.
When are the roster cutdown deadlines?
I mentioned them in passing above, but here they are. Things will work a little differently this year for the Falcons and the 31 other NFL teams, where very small cutdowns take place the first two weeks, and then 27 cuts are due before the season begins. Currently, every team can carry 90 players.
Per the league, there are two roster trims after the first two weeks. Because of when the Falcons play, they’ll have a few days to decide on their first batch, just a single day to decide on the second, and a few days to get from 80 to 53 players.
- Aug. 16: 85 players
- Aug. 23: 80 players
- Aug. 30: 53 players
Atlanta will presumably have a pretty good idea of who they want to carry on their 53-man roster by the time the third game wraps up, but remember that it will hardly be their final roster. The team has repeatedly indicated they’ll be watching who other teams cut with great interest, so you can expect the bottom of the roster to shift even after that Aug. 30 cutdown.
All that said, buckle up for Friday night, when we’ll see this team in game action for the first time since January. It may not be pretty, but it will still be a welcome sight.