FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – I've stared at this Falcons 2022 schedule for a long time now, from every angle. I've tried to relax my eyes and look through it, as if I were striving to truly see one of those 3-D paintings.
Never could see the hidden image as a kid, back when they were featured in every Spencer's Gifts storefront from here to the Pacific. Can't see them now.
I have a similar experience when I try to glean insight on the Falcons 2022 record by staring at a schedule. Can't see 7-10 or 10-7 or any other record. Neither can you. Neither can anyone else. Don't buy snake oil from anyone claiming they can.
Don't bother trying. Simply enjoy mapping out your autumn. Book some hotels for fun Falcons road trips. Plan to check out the action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (If somehow you haven't heard, tickets are on sale NOW!!) Schedule some smack-talking texts or tweets to your Steelers- or Bears-fan buddies for right before (and after) the Falcons play them.
My point in all that is to say this: Enjoy the heck out of this little stretch, where every team's 0-0 and hope springs eternal.
We're fresh off the Falcons assembling a highly regarded NFL Draft class featuring Drake London and Arnold Ebiketie. There's light at the end of the tunnel, as GM Terry Fontenot puts it, regarding the salary cap. The Falcons imported a bunch of chip-on-your-shoulder scrappers, who'll vibe well with head coach Arthur Smith's similar demeanor.
There's plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future. Navigating the present might be a bit tougher, even with some exciting playmakers who could make watching the Falcons more fun.
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The Falcons face a daunting slate, though they'll play nine regular-season games at home for the first time ever. They have a late bye in Week 4, and some seemingly tough at the beginning and a bit lighter as we move along.
The Falcons have a few possible cold-weather games down the stretch. Washington may be chilly in late November; Baltimore will definitely be cold in late December. It's pretty fair in terms of road trips and home stands evenly distributed, even if the strength of schedule is tougher than a year ago.
I say the phrase "strength of schedule" without providing stat, and I do so on purpose. Teams often change a ton from year to year, so last year's results often play a small part in this year's results. Timing of when one sees a team is a factor, if an injury or suspension or other setback could hinder a team just before you play them.
They only play one team coming off a bye (the Chargers in Week 9) when they played the week before. The Rams will have some extra rest in Week 2 after playing the NFL opener on Sept. 8 and them not again until they face ATL in Week 2, but that's it for teams coming off mini-byes. Both the Saints and Falcons have a Week 14 bye before playing each other in Week 15 – which should be a fun one in New Orleans.
So, in short, the Falcons didn't get hosed by this schedule. They'll succeed or struggle based on merit and injury status. They'll take copious notes on the players they have while planning for what's next. Let's have fun with the present.
Rise up! It's a new season, and we can't wait to get started!
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