FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons, who have posted four straight losing campaigns, will open the 2022 season by hosting their archrival Saints at 1 p.m. Sept. 11 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With the highest dead salary cap money in the NFL, the Falcons will take a slingshot into most gunfights during the 2022 season, as their potentially formidable schedule was released Thursday night.

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After their offseason moves, the Falcons have $62.8 million (30.2%) of the $208.2 million in dead salary-cap space. Matt Ryan ($40.5 million), Julio Jones ($15.5 million), Dante Fowler ($4.6 million), Tyeler Davison ($1.2 million) and 21 others under $1 million ranging from Mike Davis ($750,000) to John Raine ($1,000) make up the total.

In addition to the NFC South foes, the Falcons are set to play the rugged AFC North and the tougher-than-leather NFC West this season, with other games against the Bears, Chargers and Commanders.

The last time the Falcons played the AFC North, in 2018, they were smacked around and went 0-4. Cleveland ran the ball down their throats with Nick Chubb, and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt wrecked the offense in a 41-17 loss. The Falcons also lost 37-36 to the Bengals on a late A.J. Green touchdown reception and 26-16 to the Ravens as the Falcons’ offense was held to 131 total yards.

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The Falcons also have lost their past four games against the NFC West teams – the Rams, Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers – and their last meetings with the Bears, Chargers and Commanders.

The Falcons did go 2-4 against the NFC South last season, including a win over the Saints in New Orleans.

2022 exhibition schedule

Week Date Opponent Location Time TV

1 TBD at Detroit Lions Ford Field TBD FOX

2 Aug. 22 at New York Jets MetLife Stadium 8 p.m. ESPN

3 TBD Jacksonville Jaguars Mercedes-Benz Stadium TBD FOX

The full 2022 regular-season schedule

> Week 1 – Sunday, Sept. 11, vs. Saints, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: Dennis Allen takes over for Sean Payton, who tormented the Falcons for most of his tenure as he posted a 21-9 record in the rivalry. The Saints added wide receiver Chris Olave in the draft and added safety Tyrann Mathieu late in free agency to help the defense. Last meeting: The Saints beat the Falcons 30-20 in the 2021 regular-season finale Jan. 9 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They split 1-1 last season. Series record: The Falcons lead 53-52 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs.

> Week 2 – Sunday, Sept. 18, at Rams, 4:05 p.m., Fox

The skinny: The defending Super Bowl champions devastated the Falcons’ offensive line in the last meeting, when Jared Goff was the quarterback. This will be the first time for the Falcons to face Matthew Stafford in blue and gold. Last meeting: The Rams won 37-10 on Oct. 20, 2019. Series record: The Rams lead 48-30-2.

> Week 3 – Sunday, Sept. 25, at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., Fox

The skinny: The Seahawks moved on from quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner over the offseason. Coach Pete Carroll will pick from Drew Lock, Geno Smith or Jacob Eason to be the new starter at QB. Last meeting: The Seahawks won 38-25 on Sept. 13, 2020, in Atlanta. Series record: The Seahawks lead 12-8.

> Week 4 – Sunday, Oct. 2, Browns, 1 p.m., CBS

The skinny: The Falcons could face quarterback Deshaun Watson in this matchup, depending on if he’s suspended. The Falcons tried to acquire Watson this offseason but lost out when Cleveland guaranteed his entire contract. Last meeting: The Browns won 28-16 in Cleveland on Nov. 11, 2018. Series record: The Browns lead 12-3.

> Week 5 – Sunday, Oct. 9, at Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: Todd Bowles, who started his coaching career at Morehouse, takes over for Bruce Arians. Quarterback Tom Brady came out of his brief retirement to make another run at a Super Bowl title. The Bucs didn’t have a first-round pick but helped their lines with second-round picks in defensive tackle Logan Hall and guard Luke Goedeke. Last meeting: The Bucs beat the Falcons 30-17 on Dec. 5, 2021. The Bucs swept the season series 2-0. Series record: The Bucs lead 29-27.

> Week 6 – Sunday, Oct. 16, 49ers, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: The big question is when will Kyle Shanahan hand the keys to the Porsche over to Trey Lance? Or, will he stay with Jimmy Garoppolo a little longer? The 49ers must rebuild their offensive line, too. Last meeting: The 49ers won 31-13 on Dec. 19, 2021. Series record: The 49ers lead 47-31-1.

> Week 7 – Sunday, Oct. 23, at Bengals, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: After their stunning trip to the Super Bowl, the Bengals worked to fortify their offensive line. Also, they signed former Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst in free agency. Last meeting: The Bengals won 37-36 on Sept. 30, 2018, in Atlanta. Series record: The Bengals lead 9-5.

> Week 8 – Sunday, Oct. 30, at Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: As things stand, Sam Darnold still is the top quarterback on the roster, but Carolina drafted Matt Corral in the third round. The Panthers selected former N.C. State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu sixth overall in the draft. Last meeting: The Falcons won 29-21 on Dec. 12, 2021. They split the season series 1-1. Series record: The Falcons lead 34-20.

> Week 9 – Sunday, Nov. 6, Chargers, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: Rookie coach Brandon Staley guided the Chargers to a 9-8 mark last season, but every team in the AFC West has upgraded. The Chargers tried to solidify their offensive line by drafting guard Zion Johnson and former Georgia tackle Jamaree Salyer. Last meeting: The Chargers won 20-17 on Dec. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. Series record: The Falcons lead 8-3.

> Week 10 – Thursday, Nov. 10, at Panthers, 8:15 p.m., Prime

The second meeting of the season between the NFC South foes.

> Week 11 – Sunday, Nov. 20, Bears, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: Former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus takes over in the Windy City. He plans to build the offense around quarterback Justin Fields, who went through some growing pains as a rookie. Last meeting: The Bears won 30-26 in Atlanta on Sept. 27, 2020. Series record: The Bears lead 15-13.

> Week 12 – Sunday, Nov. 27, at Commanders, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: The Commanders traded for quarterback Carson Wentz and will try to revive his once-promising career. They drafted former North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell in the fifth round as insurance. Last meeting: The Commanders won 34-30 on Oct. 3, 2021, in Atlanta. Series record: The Commanders lead 16-10-1.

> Week 13 – Sunday, Dec. 4, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m., CBS

The skinny: Kenny Pickett was the top quarterback taken in the draft and must beat out Mitchell Trubisky for the job. Drake London, who was taken eighth overall in the draft by the Falcons, is slated to be on the same field with former Georgia wide receiver George Pickens, who was taken 52nd. Last meeting: The Steelers pummeled the Falcons 41-17 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 7, 2018. Series record: The Steelers lead 14-2-1.

> Week 14 – BYE WEEK

> Week 15 – Sat or Sunday Dec. 17/18 , at Saints , TBD, TBD

The second meeting of the season between the NFC South foes.

> Week 16 – Saturday, Dec. 24, at Ravens, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: Dazzling quarterback Lamar Jackson and company are tough to deal with. The Ravens also added former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, of Marist School, in the first round. Last meeting: The Ravens won 26-16 on Dec. 2, 2018, in Atlanta. Series record: The Ravens lead 4-2.

> Week 17 – Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, Cardinals, 1 p.m., Fox

The skinny: The Cardinals will be without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins early in the season after his six-game suspension. Also, maturity issues surfaced with talented young quarterback Kyler Murray over the offseason. Last meeting: The Cardinals won 34-33 on Oct. 13, 2019. Series record: The Cardinals lead 16-15.

> Week 18 – Saturday, Jan. 7 or Sunday, Jan. 8, Buccaneers, TBD, TBD

The second meeting of the season between the NFC South foes.

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