NFL schedules follow a specific formula. We all know the Falcons will face each NFC South twice in a regular season, both home and away.
Then they play an entire division from the AFC and another from the NFC on a rotational basis, plus a few games based on divisional standings.
Let's focus on the division rotation for a bit. Sometimes you luck out and get a weaker draw, as the AFC South might be considered this year.
Other times, you draw a stacked division from one conference and a so-so group from the other. Or you pull two strong divisions.
That's the situation the Falcons find themselves in this season, facing off against the NFC West and the AFC North.
While every team isn't awesome, both divisions run three deep. The NFC West features the Super Bowl champion L.A. Rams, NFC runner-up 49ers and a Cardinals team that started 10-2 and lost in the wild-card round. Seattle's in some transition, but the Falcons will play the Seahawks at Lumen Field, the NFL's loudest stadium. Even that won't be easy.
The AFC North might be just as tough, with the AFC champs in Cincinnati, Lamar Jackson in Baltimore – that'll likely be a cold-weather game on the road – plus Myles Garrett and possibly Deshaun Watson in Cleveland. Pittsburgh might be considered down some, but they were a playoff team and still have TJ Watt on the roster.
That's tough sledding for any team. It will surely test the Falcons meddle, especially dealing with so many quality quarterbacks. The AFC North is also known for physical play, providing a litmus test for a Falcons team that coach Arthur Smith is working to build into a tough, hard-nosed outfit.
Sept. 18 at L.A. Rams (4:05 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Sept. 25 at Seattle (4:25 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Oct. 16 vs. 49ers (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Jan. 1 vs. Cardinals (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Oct. 2 vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Oct. 23 at Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Dec. 4 vs. Steelers (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets
Dec. 24 at Baltimore (1 p.m. ET) -- Tickets