xWe’ve had a little over 24 hours to digest the 2023 Falcons schedule, and maybe the biggest surprise is just how straightforward it looks. No brutal multi-game stretches, no ill-timed bye week, and no Thursday night games to mess up everyone’s week.
With improvements and this simple schedule, are the Falcons ready to finally make some major noise in the NFC South, or even the larger NFC? We turned to our staff roundtable to deliver snap judgements on the schedule, and we’d love your thoughts in the comments.
A manageable slate for a rebuilt Falcons team
Easiest stretch: Week 5 through Week 10
Hardest stretch: Week 3 through Week 4
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 1 against the Panthers
Snap prediction: 10-7
The more you look at this schedule, the more it looks like the perfect opportunity for this Falcons team to vault into the playoffs after a five year drought. There are no truly (on paper) impossible stretches as there have been in years past; the closest thing to it is a bit of a brutal two game sprint at Detroit and across the pond to play the Jaguars. The Falcons get some (again, on paper) easy runs against rebuilding teams, especially in the heart of their schedule, and have a well-placed bye and not all that many (one final time, on paper) difficult opponents.
Given how much work has gone into improving this roster, and given that it’s work that I expect to pay off, the Falcons not having a bunch of long road game swings out to the West Coast or early byes or oddly timed Thursday night games plays in their favor. I fully expect them to break their streaking of losing seasons in 2023, and looking at both this schedule and how far the roster has come, I’m ready to start believing in double digit wins if all goes smoothly between now and January. —Dave Choate
Easiest Stretch: Week 14 through Week 16
Hardest Stretch: Week 3 through Week 5
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 4 vs Jacksonville (if I can go *fingers crossed*)
Snap prediction: 11-6
The more I look at the division and this schedule, the more I really do not see a reason for the Falcons to not at the top of the NFC South when Week 18 is done. Outside of the London trip, the travel is fairly easy, especially given that the bye week comes between a road trip to Arizona and then the sAints at home.
The toughest part will be that stretch from Week 3 through 5 starting with a trip up to Detroit. Playing a physical team before that big trip could cause some problems in London, and I really want to see what the mentality is of the team coming back home that next week against Houston. Can they avoid that “trap” against a rebuilding team coming off the high-profile game at Wembley?
What I’m most excited about is to see how they hit their stride coming out of the bye week. All of the new pieces (coaches included) will be comfortable with each other, and the home stretch into the playoffs will begin. I fully believe once they hit the field Week 12 that all three phases will be rolling. Can’t wait to watch. -Jordan Watkins
I want to believe, but I know I shouldn’t just yet
Easiest stretch: Week 5 through Week 8
Hardest stretch: Week 12 through Week 15
Game I’m most looking forward to: Falcons at Titans (Nashville bias)
Snap prediction: 9-8
Maybe it’s the hidden pessimist in me, and maybe it’s the uneasy feeling of looking at any Atlanta Falcons schedule as “easy.” As much as I really think this is a navigable slate for the team, something inside me says that the team just isn’t quite there yet to really dominate this run of games like you might think they would.
It’s not that the offseason hasn’t been impressive; it really has. The defense looks totally remade, and the offense added a generational talent in running back Bijan Robinson. As long as quarterback Desmond Ridder is the answer, the team’s future looks bright.
They could easily bypass this prediction and win a bunch of games. I’m all for that. However, Ridder’s inexperience and the defense’s continual need for more talent (especially in the pass rush) make me wonder if they’re still a year away from really causing problems. The team’s first winning season since 2017 and a possible Wild Card berth both feel very possible, though. A two-game improvement from 2022 would be a nice jump for this team. - Cory Woodroof
Playoffs or bust
Easiest stretch: Week 5 through Week 8
Hardest Stretch: Week 12 through Week 13
Game I’m most looking forward to: Week 12 (and Week 18) against the Saints
Snap Prediction: 10-7
You could not have drawn up more of a favorable schedule for the Falcons. Not only are they in one of the worst divisions in football to start with, but they face the NFC North and AFC South — two of the weaker divisions in football — as well as the Commanders and Cardinals, who have their own set of issues. As a result, the travel is very manageable outside of a London trip, with the team going no further west than Arizona and they will even have a bye week after that trip.
I highlighted weeks 12 and 13 as the toughest for me. Those will be matchups against the Saints and at the Jets. I’m never taking the challenge of a Falcons-Saints game for granted, especially with both teams coming off of a bye week, although this needs to the year when Arthur Smith finally turns the tide of this rivalry back into Atlanta’s favor after getting swept in his first two seasons as head coach. I would also argue that the Jets in New York is the single toughest game on the schedule. That team will be a legitimate player in the AFC this season.
The Birds will need to take advantage of their post-London stretch against (presumably) CJ Stroud, Sam Howell, Baker Mayfield and Ryan Tannehill — not exactly a gauntlet of quarterbacks, and especially when they are on teams that already have some pretty big holes otherwise. Overall, this is statistically the easiest schedule going into 2023 in the NFL. We’ve seen this team take some steps forward over the past two years, but I would consider anything short of a playoff appearance this season to be a failure. -Adnan Ikic