The National Football League today released the 2012 regular season schedule. This year, Atlanta's schedule includes four nationally televised games, including appearances on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos at home (Week 2) and at the Detroit Lions (Week 16) on ESPN, which will be played on Saturday, December 22. Atlanta's schedule will also include a Sunday Night matchup against the Dallas Cowboys (Week 9) on NBC, and a home game against division rival New Orleans Saints on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football (Week 13). The 2012 season marks the second consecutive year that the Falcons will be featured in four primetime games.
In addition to the customary home and away matchups with their NFC South rivals, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, Atlanta will also battle the NFC East and AFC West in intra-conference play. The Birds will also host the NFC West runner-up Arizona Cardinals and travel to Detroit for the second consecutive season to face the Lions.
Along with a matchup against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (Week 15), the Falcons will face two additional teams that made the playoffs in 2011, including Detroit (Week 16) and two games against New Orleans (Week 10 & Week 13). This will also mark the third consecutive year the Falcons will face the defending Super Bowl Champions.
The Falcons open the season on the road for the third straight year when they travel to Kansas City for the first time since 2004 and just the fourth time in franchise history. The Falcons last played the Chiefs in 2008, winning 38-14 at the Georgia Dome. WR Julio Jones hauled in five receptions for a game-high 119 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown catch in the win. The Chiefs lead the all-time series 5-2 and the Falcons will be in search of their first win in Kansas City in franchise history.
Atlanta will play its 2012 home opener in Week 2 when it hosts the Denver Broncos on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The last time the two teams met was in 2008 when the Broncos edged the Falcons 24-20 at the Georgia Dome. Denver leads the all-time series 8-4, but the teams are tied at 3-3 in games played in Atlanta. The 2012 season also marks the third consecutive time the teams will clash at the Georgia Dome and is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII.
The Falcons will make their only trip to the west coast in Week 3, when they travel to San Diego to battle the Chargers. It will be the first meeting between the two clubs since a 22-16 Falcons win at San Diego in 2008. RB Devonta Freeman ran for 120 yards on 31 carries against his former team, while WR Roddy White posted 112 yards on six receptions in the win. Atlanta has won each of the last five meetings between the two clubs and owns a 7-1 advantage in the all-time series. Additionally, the Falcons are a perfect 5-0 at San Diego and the Birds are 5-0 on the west coast under Head Coach Mike Smith.
The Falcons return home to host the Panthers in Week 4 for the first of two meetings in 2012. Last season, Atlanta topped Carolina, 31-17, at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta outscored Carolina 17-0 in the fourth quarter and QB Matt Ryan led the team on a 10-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a one-yard Ryan sneak for a touchdown and the go-ahead-score. RB Michael Turner rushed for 139 yards in the game. In his career, Turner has posted five 100-yard games and 11 touchdowns in nine career meetings. Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith owns a 6-2 record against the Panthers in his four seasons at the helm. Additionally, Atlanta holds a 22-12 edge over Carolina in the all-time series.
In Week 5, Atlanta travels to Washington for the first time since 2006 to take on the Redskins. The Falcons have won the last two meetings between the teams, including a 31-17 win at the Georgia Dome in 2009. RB Michael Turner ran for a season-high 166 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns, including a 58-yard score.
Atlanta welcomes the Oakland Raiders to the Georgia Dome for a Week 6 matchup, marking the Raiders' first trip to Atlanta since 2004. The Falcons and Raiders last met in Oakland in 2008 with the Birds posting a 24-0 shutout win. The teams have met 12 times with Raiders holding a 7-5 advantage in the all-time series.
Following a Week 7 bye, the Falcons are set to travel to Philadelphia in Week 8. This season marks the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the two teams will play, and the fourth time in the last six meetings that the game will take place at Lincoln Financial Field. In 2011, the Falcons scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter en route to a 35-31 come-from-behind win over the Eagles at the Georgia Dome. Ryan set a career-high with four touchdown passes. TE Tony Gonzalez caught two touchdown passes which marked the 16th multi-touchdown game of his career. The Falcons and Eagles have played 26 times with the Eagles leading the all-time series 15-10-1.
Atlanta returns home in Week 9 to play host to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. This will be the first time the Cowboys have traveled to Atlanta since 2006 when they left the Georgia Dome with a 38-28 win. The two teams last met in 2009 when the Falcons fell 37-21 in Dallas. The Falcons and Cowboys have played 22 times dating back to 1966 with Dallas holding a 14-8 series lead.
Week 10 features a battle between the last two NFC South winners when the Falcons travel to New Orleans. In 2011, the Saints topped the Falcons 45-16 on Monday Night Football at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Despite the loss, QB Matt Ryan became just the second quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season after posting a career-high 373 passing yards.
Atlanta hosts Arizona in Week 11, marking the fifth time in the last seven years that these two former NFC West division rivals will play each other. The Falcons defeated the Cardinals 41-7 at the Georgia Dome in 2010 as RB Jason Snelling earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after posting career-high 186 all-purpose yards, scoring both rushing and receiving touchdowns while racking up 129 yards on 24 carries and 57 yards on five receptions. The 2012 season marks the 26th meeting between the clubs with the Cardinals holding a 14-11 lead in the all-time series.
Week 12 has Atlanta traveling to Tampa Bay for the first of two meetings in 2012. Last season, the Buccaneers outlasted the Falcons 16-13 in a tightly contested battle at Raymond James Stadium in Week 3. WR Julio Jones notched his first career 100-yard game catching six passes for 115 yards while Ryan posted his second 300-yard passing game of the season.
The Falcons will make their third appearance in a nationally televised game when they host NFC South rival New Orleans on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football in Week 13. The Falcons fell to the Saints 26-23 in overtime the last time the two teams met at the Georgia Dome. The Birds scored 10 points in the final seven minutes of the game, including a 20-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to TE Tony Gonzalez with 4:13 left on the clock and a 27-yard field goal from K Josh Harris as time expired to send the game into overtime. WR Matt Ryan had a career day in the loss, catching eight passes for 133 yards. Atlanta holds a 45-40 edge in the all-time series between the two southern rivals.
Atlanta travels to Carolina to tackle its NFC South rival for the second time in Week 14. In 2011, the Falcons swept the season series against the Panthers, including a 31-23 come-from-behind win at Bank of America Stadium. Ryan led the Falcons offense to 24 unanswered points in the second half to overcome a 23-7 halftime deficit to earn the win. Ryan posted the 14th fourth-quarter, game-winning drive of his career when he engineered a 10-play, 90-yard drive ending with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 12:42 remaining in the game. In the win, Jones joined WR Randy Moss as the only rookies in NFL history to post 100-plus receiving yards, a 30-yard per catch average, and two TD catches in two different games.
In Week 15, the Falcons host the New York Giants in a rematch of last year's NFC Wild Card playoff game. The last time the two teams met in the regular season was 2009 when New York topped Atlanta 34-31 in overtime at Giants Stadium. The Falcons and Giants have met 20 times in the regular season and the all-time series is tied at 10-10. The Giants have won each of the last three meetings.
For the third year in a row, the Falcons will play in the final Monday Night Football game of the season in Week 16. Due to the Christmas holiday, the game will be played on Saturday, December 22, and will air on ESPN. Atlanta will head to Detroit for the second consecutive year to battle the Lions at Ford Field in their fourth and final primetime game of the 2012 season. In 2011, Atlanta defeated Detroit 23-16 in a game that saw TE Tony Gonzalez pass WR Marvin Harrison to become the NFL's second leading receiver with over 1,100 receptions. Entering 2012, Gonzalez's 1,149 receptions trail only WR Jerry Rice's 1,549 for the most in NFL history.
The Falcons will close out the 2012 regular season by hosting their division rival Buccaneers for the second straight year. Atlanta wrapped up the 2011 regular season with a 45-24 win over Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome to give the Falcons a 10-6 overall record and secure their fourth straight winning season. The 2011 season finale saw the Falcons break numerous franchise and single-season records. Ryan broke the franchise record for passing yards in a single season, topping Jeff George (4,143) and finishing the year with 4,177 yards. WR Roddy White became the Falcons all-time leading receiver with 7,374 career receiving yards. White also became the first Falcon to post back-to-back 100-catch seasons. RB Michael Turner became the franchise's all-time leader with 49 career rushing touchdowns and tied RB Gerald Riggs for the franchise record with his 25th 100-yard game. WR Julio Jones caught two touchdown passes to set a Falcons rookie record with eight touchdowns on the season.
Atlanta's 2012 opponents posted a 125-131 (.488) record in 2011 and the Falcons have totaled 161 wins against their 2012 opponents. Since the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002, the Falcons are 30-30 against the NFC South and under Head Coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have posted a 43-21 (.672) overall record, which is the fifth highest win total in the NFL during that time. Since 2008, Atlanta owns a 22-16 record against its 2012 opponents.
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