Falcons: 2021 opponents and strength of schedule

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The Falcons had a dismal 2020 season, finishing 4-12 and last in the division for the first time since 2007 — a season that ironically led to Atlanta drafting Matt Ryan. The dates are still being configured, but we know who the Falcons’ 2021 opponents are.

As customary, the Falcons will play six regular-season games against the NFC South — three on the road and three at home versus the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Beyond that, the NFC South will face the NFC East and AFC East for another eight games. This is considerable when looking at the Falcons’ strength of schedule. The NFC East is by far the worst division in the NFL, and Atlanta will get a chance to play a rebuilding Eagles team, the Cowboys and Washington Football Team, both of whom are without quarterbacks as of now, and a shaky Daniel Jones-led Giants.

The AFC East isn’t much better. The Jets should be an easy win. The Patriots and Dolphins have average rosters but bleak quarterback situations. The only threat in either of the East divisions is the Bills, who are coming off their best year since the 90s.

Finally, in the remaining two games, the Falcons will play the Lions and 49ers — both last-place finishers from the NFC North and NFC West. The Lions will likely be a dumpster fire, but the 49ers should pose a competitive matchup. That is the 16-game season the Falcons currently have scheduled for 2021, which would rank 25th in strength of schedule with a .479 opponents’ win-percentage.

But as I suggested, the 17-game schedule is highly likely in 2021. According to NFL insider Peter King, TV partners and NFL schedulers are working under the assumption of a 17-game schedule (the way was paved for it last March when players approved a new CBA). So who will the Falcons play? The league configured the extra game with the formula of AFC versus NFC, cross-conference matchup from two years ago, 2021 matchup based on 2020 standings. It isn’t obvious, so here is King explaining it.

“… here’s an example: The four AFC West teams played the four NFC North teams in 2019. In 2020, Kansas City finished in first place in the AFC West, Green Bay first in the NFC North. So in 2021, it’s AFC West against NFC North, and 1-versus-1 from ‘20 becomes Green Bay versus Kansas City.”

This likely means the Falcons will face the Jaguars in Jacksonville against Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer, which bodes well for Atlanta as Jacksonville is at the beginning of a complete rebuild. Regardless of when the game takes place, Dean Pees’ scheme should confuse a rookie. With the 17-game schedule, the Falcons rank 30th in strength of schedule with an opponents’ win percentage of .454 — an easier 17-game schedule than 16.

Home: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Detroit Lions

Road: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars (presumably)

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