FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes game-by-game predictions for the newly-released Falcons schedule as well as some of the highlights of the upcoming season.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
ESPN: 2018 Falcons game-by-game predictions
The Falcons' 2018 regular-season schedule was released Thursday evening, giving us the first look at what sort of schedule-related challenges the team will face this fall. We've known who the Falcons will be playing for quite some time, but the order in which the games are played at least has some impact in a team's season.
After the release of the schedule, ESPN's Vaughn McClure went down the list to provide his predictions on how the Falcons will fare in 2018. They have a pretty tough stretch to open the season, and their final run of games could also have a big impact in their post-season hopes.
McClure believes the Falcons will end up with a 9-7 record this year, one game worse than their 2017 record. He does not predict whether or not Atlanta will make the playoffs with this record, but they would not have gotten in with that record last season.
Atlanta will drop its season opener against Philadelphia, according to McClure, giving them an 0-1 start to the season. He believes the Falcons will quickly rebound, however, winning their next three games, including a pair of division wins over the Panthers and Saints, before losing the second road game of the season against the Steelers.
With another pair of wins after the loss to the Steelers, McClure predicts the Falcons will head into the bye week with a 5-2 record. He also believes the Falcons will continue to win out of the break, ultimately moving to 7-2 before going 2-5 in their final seven games. The only two games McClure thinks the Falcons will win in that seven-game span are against the Ravens and the Cardinals.
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
The Ringer: The highlights of the NFL's 2018 schedule
Aside from learning the order in which the Falcons will face their opponents and the times of each games, Thursday provided an entire picture for the league's schedule. We now know what the prime-time matchups are and can begin to imagine a season full of marquee games.
The Ringer's Riley McAtee combed through the league schedule to pull out some of the highlights worth monitoring. Here are some of the findings.
First on his list is the kickoff game between the Falcons and the Eagles, which McAtee says is "an ideal kickoff game… between two good teams who met in the playoffs." Just three days later, McAtee has "The Litmus Test Game" for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who will begin the season on the road against a tough Vikings defense.
The best non-primetime matchup McAtee sees takes place on Sept. 16, when the Patriots face the Jaguars on the road in an AFC Championship Game rematch (how is that not in primetime??). There's also an enticing international game this season with the Eagles and the Jaguars squaring off in London on Oct. 28, so be sure to set your alarm clocks for that one.
To see some of McAtee's other highlights for this year's schedule, click here.
Here are some more articles from around the league:
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