Playing in the NFC South has made the Falcons' schedule tougher than most in recent years. Having to the face the NFC East and AFC North this season only adds to the difficulty level.
Atlanta was faced with a similarly tough slate in 2017 and came out 10-6. With the 13th toughest schedule based on last year's records, the Falcons have to hope for that same bit of good fortune this year. The six games against the Saints, Panthers and Bucs don't give much room for error, and having to play the Steelers, Eagles and Packers only adds pressure. Such a tough schedule makes games against teams like the Cardinals and Ravens even more critical.
Below is a breakdown of the Falcons' schedule in 2018.
Falcons schedule 2018
Falcons regular-season schedule
|Date||Opponent||Kickoff time||TV network|
|Sept. 6||at Philadelphia Eagles||8:20 p.m.||(NBC)|
|Sept. 16||vs. Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Sept. 23||vs. New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Sept. 30||vs. Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Oct. 7||at Pittsburgh Steelers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Oct. 14||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Oct. 22||vs. New York Giants||8:15 p.m.||(ESPN)|
|Nov. 4||at Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Nov. 11||at Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Nov. 18||vs. Dallas Cowboys||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Nov. 22||at New Orleans Saints (Thanksgiving)||8:20 p.m.||(NBC)|
|Dec. 2||vs. Baltimore Ravens||1 p.m.||(CBS)|
|Dec. 9||at Green Bay Packers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Dec. 16||vs. Arizona Cardinals||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Dec. 23||at Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
|Dec. 30||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||(FOX)|
Falcons preseason schedule
|Week 1||at NY Jets||7:30 p.m.|
|Week 2||Kansas City||7 p.m.|
|Week 3||at Jacksonville||7 p.m.|
|Week 4||Miami||7 p.m.|
MORE 2018 NFL SCHEDULES:
Five preseason games worth watching
Nov. 18 vs. Dallas Cowboys 1 p.m. (FOX)
Toughest tests: Playing in the NFC South is tough enough, but away matchups against both the Packers and Steelers adds to that. Pittsburgh is part of the AFC North series, and drawing the toughest of those teams on the road is not a desirable outcome for the dome-dwelling Falcons. The matchup with Green Bay comes with both teams finishing third in their respective divisions. That normally would seem like a good draw, but not against a team led by Aaron Rodgers, who's coming back from a broken collarbone suffered in 2017.
Biggest breaks: Playing against fellow NFC third-place teams gives the Falcons some bad luck, but also some good. They'll get the Cardinals at home in what should be one of the more winnable matchups of the year; Atlanta scraped together a respectable 7-9 season in 2017 but is moving toward rebuild mode. And the Falcons getting the Browns on the road is always a nice addition to the schedule.
Bottom line: The breaks are few and far between for Atlanta. From top to bottom, start to finish, there are tough matchups throughout the year. The Falcons are a great team in their own right, though, and despite having to play a number of playoff teams from a year ago and a few that could make a run this year, Atlanta should be in good position to continue its recent success. Record prediction: 11-5