FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons are playing a game in London this season. Tradition suggests a bye week should follow.
Not so this time around.
The Falcons will play a Week 4 contest against Jacksonville, at Wembley Stadium, and be back in action the following week.
While that may seem unsavory on its surface, pushing the Falcons bye back is actually better in the long run. Having a Week 5 bye would come waaaaaaay too early, leaving too long a stretch between the break and season's end.
The next logical question here: Can the Falcons recover from the London trip fast enough to play Houston at Mercedes-Benz Stadium the following week?
It's possible, yes. Results from those who don't have a post-London bye are mixed. As an example, the Giants and Packers didn't have a bye following last year's Week 5 clash at Tottenham Stadium. The Giants won their next game. The Packers lost. That probably wasn't the only variable in those results, but it could be a factor nonetheless.
It'll help that the Falcons play in the Eastern Time Zone, which is five hours behind. How they handle things following the London trip will be key and, if the Falcons can beat the Texans, they'll benefit greatly from a Week 11 bye that falls in a near-perfect spot.
They have a bye set in the second half of the season but not too far into it, following their only (essentially) cross-country trip to play the Arizona Cardinals. Here's a welcome kicker: They play New Orleans at home coming out of the bye.
That's an extra week to heal up before facing an NFC South rival. That's an extra week for Arthur Smith and Ryan Nieslen to design unscouted looks and look to exploit advantageous matchups.
It also provides a chance to heal up for a stretch run that includes four division games over the final seven. They play Tampa Bay at home and away to Carolina in Weeks 14-15. Then there's the season finale against the host Saints that, if things go well enough for the Falcons, could be for all the NFC South's marbles. Time will tell on that front.
We do know, though, that the bye comes at an excellent time in the year. Beating Houston after returning from the London trip would validate taking no post-London break, setting the Falcons up to navigate the schedule well.
A lot has to break right for an upstart team to become a serious postseason contender, but the Falcons will surely take the Week 11 bye as a bonus as they look at the slate overall.
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