It's been known for some time that when it comes to opponents' winning percentage from the 2014 season, the Atlanta Falcons will face the easiest NFL schedule during the 2015 season. Now that the NFL has released the official week-by-week schedule, we know when each of these game will fall on the calendar. FOX Sports South offers 10 tidbits from the upcoming Falcons' schedule in 2015.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Getting the NFC East out of the way early
The Falcons are obviously in the NFC South, but it won't feel that way early in the 2015 season. With the Eagles at home and then the Giants and Cowboys on the road, Atlanta starts its season with three NFC East East teams in a row. The Falcons play the Redskins two weeks later, meaning Atlanta has the East out of the way by the end of Week 5.
USA TODAY SportsDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Good timing for the bye
One of the first things every player looks at when the NFL schedule comes out is where is the bye week. Too early and the final stretch of the season is way too long. Too late and nagging injuries pile up before the guys can rest. The Falcons get a bye during Week 10 action, and that's almost perfect timing for rest. It's also the week before Andrew Luck and the Colts come to town. Atlanta can get lots of prep work in.
USA TODAY SportsDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Monday Night opener
The Falcons will get some national attention during their first game of the season when they host the Eagles on "Monday Night Football." Not only is it great for the franchise to get national exposure, if a team is going to work on short rest, it's best to do it heading into Week 2 when legs are fresher than at just about any other point.
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December could be telling for the division race
The NFC South wasn't decided until Week 17 last year when Carolina thumped the Falcons to make it into the playoffs. Many believe the Panthers and Falcons are the teams to beat in the division, and they play twice in three weeks in December (Weeks 13 and 16). Four of Atlanta's five December games are against the South, with the season culminating in a Georgia Dome matchup with New Orleans.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
Where's the schedule breather?
No one ever wants to use the word easy, and that's definitely appropriate. But where is the safest stretch of games for the Falcons? From Weeks 5 to 9, Atlanta plays four teams with losing records last year (Redskins, Saints, Titans and Buccaneers) and then plays the 49ers, who likely will be weaker in 2015 than their 8-8 posting last season. The bye week follows for Atlanta in Week 10.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
What's the toughest stretch of games?
Beginning the season with three NFC East teams, two of them on the road, is tough. But the month of December is downright awful. Atlanta starts the final month of the season with three road games (Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars), and also has to play four divisional games. If the NFC South is still down. as was the case in 2014, December could be a proving month for Atlanta.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
It may be Week 8 before the Falcons have a winning record
Starting off the season with the Eagles is no cake walk. Then the Falcons go to Dallas in Week 3 and host Houston in Week 4. What if the Falcons are 1-3 after the first quarter of the season? Week 5 against Washington will help, but then Atlanta has to travel to New Orleans. Ouch. Consecutive games against Tennessee and Tampa Bay could help get the season on track for the Falcons, but it may take a while.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
The NFL did no favors for Atlanta
Yes, the Falcons have the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2015. But the league threw up some obstacles, that's for sure. The biggest is three consecutive road games in December (Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars). Since 2003, the Falcons have just two seasons in which they've earned a winning record on the road (2010 and 2012). Atlanta is one of only three teams in 2015 with three straight road games, which seems overly cruel.
David Manning-USA TODAY SportsDavid Manning
If the Falcons thrive, it's likely because of the back part of the schedule
Atlanta only has four teams on its 2015 schedule that had winning records last season (Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and Indianapolis). Some facts about the 2014 records in the Falcons' schedule: 1) Three of the winning teams play Atlanta in the first four weeks ... 2) The only back-to-back stretch versus winning teams is Weeks 3 and 4 (Cowboys, Texans) ... 3) Atlanta's final six games come against losers from 2014, and their combined record was 33-61-2.
Phil Sears-USA TODAY SportsPhil Sears
Get ready for some highly-drafted opposing quarterbacks
Assuming the the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft this year, the Falcons will play seven games against passers taken with the first pick in the draft: Sam Bradford, Eli Manning, the Bucs' pick (twice), Andrew Luck and Cam Newton (twice). Also add at least two top-5 picks in Robert Griffin III (2nd, 2012) and Blake Bortles (3rd, 2014) with the possibility of a third if the Titans take a quarterback at No. 2 this year. Minnesota offers another first-rounder in Teddy Bridgewater.