NFL schedule breakdown: Falcons

NFL schedule breakdown: Falcons

Published Apr. 19, 2013 4:21 a.m. ET

The writing teams at Fox Sports South, FS Tennessee and FS
Carolinas have collaborated on an extensive package of NFL schedule
breakdowns for the 2013 season, specifically featuring the Falcons,
Panthers and Titans.


The Atlanta Falcons, fresh off a heartbreaking home loss in the NFC title game (49ers), face a daunting 2013 schedule that includes five national TV appearances.

Here are some likes, dislikes and general comments about Atlanta's seasonal slate, which begins in one dome (Sept. 8 at New Orleans) and ends in another (Dec. 29 home game vs. Carolina).

1. Tom Brady hits the Georgia Dome in prime time

Does it get any better than that? The last time the Falcons played the Patriots, it was in 2009 in New England. The last time Brady visited the state of Georgia — as far as we know — was in a combined practice (August 2010), when he and Randy Moss lit up Atlanta in 7-on-7 drills.

"Lit up" being a relative term ... since it was just practice. Still, both teams played in their respective championship games last season. This one will have an early season, big-game feel to it.

2. The Falcons will get plenty of rest after the Saints

Just like last season, the Falcons play the Saints on a Thursday in late November — perfect for television. Atlanta won (23-13 in Week 13) and then used the opportunity as sort of a late-season bye. If the Falcons win in 2013, it’s great. If they don’t, it sets up a brutal December schedule in a bad way.

3. The Falcons get the Seahawks in the second of two road games against NFC South teams

Will Pete Carroll learn his lesson? Last season, Seattle defeated Washington in the wild-card round, flew home and then trekked all the way back east for the divisional-round clash against Atlanta, losing in the final seconds. The Seahawks coach will have to decide whether that factored into his team’s loss at all.

The Seahawks play at Tampa Bay on Nov. 3, then visit Atlanta the following Sunday. Either way, that should be an advantage for the Falcons.

4. RG3 should be healthy by December

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III should be completely healed (barring an injury setback) from major off-season knee surgery by the time Washington visits Atlanta on Dec. 15.

Don’t blame Falcons defenders and coaches if they would have preferred to open the season with the Redskins, when Griffin might not be ready to play. The Falcons were lucky to defeat Washington last season and were trailing late until linebacker Sean Weatherspoon knocked Griffin out with a concussion. It’s a tough game.

5. The New York Jets could be cannon fodder

Apparently, the NFL still thinks the Jets are a team worthy of playing in prime time, drawing a Monday-night road trip to Atlanta on Oct. 7.

Maybe the Jets will not have traded Mark Sanchez by then and he’ll still be their starting quarterback. Maybe they will not have cut Tim Tebow by then and he’ll be their quarterback.

Either way, unless coach Rex Ryan finds a way to turn things around in a big way, this could be an easy win for the Falcons.

1. The December slate could be treacherous

As mentioned above, the Falcons will have to battle the cold, the read option (Redskins, 49ers, Panthers) and some very good teams in December.

It likely will determine the outcome of their season — whether they qualify for the playoffs, win the division, etc. The travel and the weather will be difficult. If they come out on top, the Falcons will be battle-tested and perhaps ready for playoff intensity.

2. The early bye is a real downer

The midpoint of a season — Week 8 or 9 — is the ideal time for a break. The Falcons, however, get it after Week 5 (home to the Jets).

This means Atlanta will have to go the final 11 weeks without giving banged-up players much of a chance to rest up. Having an early bye can also break momentum and doesn't offer too much in the realm of self-scouting. Most players aren't worn down by the rigors of a full season in September.

For Atlanta, Week 6 is not ideal bye time.