New Falcons coach Arthur Smith knows what the team is up against from a schedule standpoint.
The Falcons will have an early bye in Week 6 of the 2021 season, and then they must battle through a 12-game trek in the NFL’s first 17-game schedule.
The Falcons will need to be sharp early in the season.
After hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in their season opener Sept. 12, the Falcons will open play in the NFC South against the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 19.
“The thing you care about it who are playing first,” Falcons inside linebackers coach Frank Bush said Wednesday.
The Falcons will play the Jets in London in Week 5, the week before the Falcons’ bye week.
The Falcons have six games against teams that went to the playoffs in 2020, with two against the Saints, two against the Bucs, Washington and Buffalo.
The Patriots come to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a nationally televised Thursday night game the week before Thanksgiving, but the Falcons do not have any premier Sunday night or Monday night games.
Also, it could be a little chilly in Buffalo on Jan. 2.
Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of the Falcons’ 2021 opponents:
> Week 1 – Sunday, Sept. 12, vs. Eagles, 1 p.m., Fox
Eagles – The skinny: The Eagles moved on from quarterback Carson Wentz after finishing 4-11-1 and in last place in the NFC East. Former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is set to take over at quarterback. Last meeting: The Falcons scored on a late screen pass to Julio Jones from 54 yards out to pull off a 24-20 victory on Sept. 15, 2019, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Series record: Eagles lead the series 20-15-1, including 3-1 in the playoffs.
> Week 2 – Sunday, Sept. 19, at Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Bucs – The skinny: The defending Super Bowl champs have a stout defensive front and the greatest quarterback of the NFL’s modern era in Tom Brady. Last meeting: The Bucs plastered the Falcons 44-27 on Jan. 3, 2021, at Raymond James Stadium in a tune-up game for the playoffs. Series record: The Falcons lead the series 28-27.
> Week 3 – Sunday, Sept. 26, at Giants, 1 p.m., Fox
Giants – The skinny: The Giants, who feature quarterback Daniel Jones, went 6-10 last season. The last meeting: The Falcons won 23-20 on Oct. 22, 2018. The series: The Falcons lead 13-12 overall. The Giants are 1-0 in the playoffs.
> Week 4 – Sunday, Oct. 3, vs. Washington, 1 p.m., Fox
Washington - The skinny: Washington, powered by a strong defense, went 7-9 last season, won the NFC East and went to the playoffs. The Washington Football Team lost to 31-23 to Tampa Bay in the wild-card round. Last meeting: The Falcons won 38-14 on Nov. 4, 2018, at FedEx Field. Series record: The Washington Football Team leads the series 15-10-1, including 1-0 in the playoffs.
> Week 5 – Sunday, Oct. 10, vs. Jets (London), 9:30 a.m., NFL Network
Jets - The skinny: The Jets are in perpetual rebuilding mode. They traded quarterback Sam Darnold and drafted Zach Wilson second overall. The Jets went 2-14 last season and finished in last place in the AFC East. Last meeting: The Falcons won 25-20 on Oct. 25, 2017, at MetLife Stadium. Series record: Falcons lead the series 7-5.
> Week 6 – Bye week
> Week 7 – Sunday, Oct. 24, at Dolphins, 1 p.m., Fox
Dolphins – The skinny: The Dolphins went 10-6 last season and have handed the keys to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The last meeting: Miami won 20-17 on Oct. 15, 2017. The series: The Dolphins lead 9-4.
> Week 8 –Sunday, Oct. 31, vs. Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox
Panthers – The skinny: The Panthers moved on from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after one season and traded for Sam Darnold, who went 13-25 as a starter for the Jets over three seasons. Running back Christian McCaffrey is expected back from injury after playing only three games in 2020. Last meeting: The Falcons won 25-17 on Oct. 29, 2020, at Bank of America Stadium. Series record: The Falcons lead 33-19.
> Week 9 – Sunday, Nov. 7, at Saints, 1 p.m., Fox
Saints – The skinny: The Drew Brees era is over as the Saints will try to go for a “5-peat” in the NFC South. They finished 12-4 last season and appear content to go with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston at quarterback. They lost to the Bucs 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Last meeting: The Saints won 21-16 on Dec. 6, 2020. Series record: The Falcons lead the series 52-51 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs.
> Week 10 – Sunday, Nov. 14, at Cowboys, 1 p.m., Fox
Cowboys – The skinny: Former Falcons coach Dan Quinn is Dallas’ new defensive coordinator. He has former Falcons Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee on the roster. The last meeting: The Falcons blew a 29-10 lead and lost 40-39 after they stood and watched the Cowboys recover an onside kick Sept. 20, 2020. The series: The Cowboys lead 18-11, including 2-0 in the playoffs.
> Week 11 – Thursday, Nov. 18, vs. Patriots, 8:20 p.m., Fox, NFLN and Amazon Prime
Patriots - The skinny: The Patriots, who tried to transition away from Tom Brady last season, finished 7-9 and did not make the playoffs. Quarterback Cam Newton was re-signed, and the Patriots drafted former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Last meeting: The Patriots won 23-7 on Oct. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots have won the past six meetings, including the Falcons’ historic collapse in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons have not beaten the Patriots since a 41-10 win Nov. 8, 1998. Series record: Patriots lead 8-6 in the regular season and 1-0 in the playoffs.
> Week 12 – Sunday, Nov. 28, at Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS
Jaguars – The skinny: Former college coach Urban Meyer and former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence are hoping to turn things around after a 1-15 season. The last meeting: The Falcons won 24-12 on Dec. 22, 2019. The series: The Falcons lead 4-3.
> Week 13 – Sunday, Dec. 5, vs. Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox
Bucs – NFC South Division foe, second meeting.
> Week 14 – Sunday, Dec. 12, at Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox
Panthers --NFC South foe, second meeting.
> Week 15 – Sunday, Dec. 19, at 49ers, 4:05 p.m., CBS
49ers - The skinny: San Francisco went from NFC champions to last place in the NFC West last season as they finished 6-10. Their season was marred by injuries to several top players, including tight end George Kittles, who played in only eight games. Last meeting: The Falcons won 29-22 on Dec. 15, 2019. Series record: 49ers lead the series 46-31-1 in the regular season. The series is tied 1-1 in the playoffs.
> Week 16 – Sunday, Dec. 26, vs. Lions, 1 p.m., Fox
Lions – The skinny: The Lions moved on from former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford after going 5-11 and finishing in last place in the NFC North. He was traded to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff. New coach Dave Campbell promises a new and rugged brand of Lions’ football. Last meeting: The Lions won 23-22 on Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Series record: The Lions lead 25-13.
> Week 17 – Sunday, Jan. 2 at Bills, 1 p.m., Fox
Bills - The skinny: After decades of futility, the Bills have returned to superpower status. They went 13-3 last season and reached the AFC Championship game behind quarterback Josh Allen. The last meeting: Tight end Charles Clay got loose for five catches and 112 yards as the Bills won 23-17 on Oct. 1, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The series: The Falcons lead 7-5.
> Week 18 – Sunday, Jan. 9 vs. Saints, 1 p.m., Fox
Saints – NFC South foe, second meeting.
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