The Atlanta Falcons' 2020 schedule has been released, and one of the key takeaways is that the team's bye week will come a little later than normal.
Atlanta's Week 10 bye in 2020 is the latest in the season the Falcons have had a bye since 2016, when it occurred in Week 11. But while this late-season bye week will mean the Falcons won't get a chance to rest and recover until Week 10, it could actually be a blessing.
Upon initial glance at the 2020 schedule, it's clear that it's pretty backloaded. The Falcons will play seven games after their bye week: two against the New Orleans Saints, two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cross-conference matchups against the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
That's a pretty daunting home stretch.
To make matters even more difficult, four of those seven games will be played on the road, including a trip out West to face the Chargers and a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs.
The Chiefs and Saints have been among the league's best teams in recent season, and they are once again expected to be contenders in 2020. After adding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, among other key pieces, this offseason, the Buccaneers are certainly going to be one of the most-watched teams in the NFL and they boast a defense that was playing as well as anyone at the end of last season. The Chargers and Raiders are more unknowns than those other teams, but they both have talent in place and could be in contention late in the year.
If Atlanta is to make a return trip to the postseason in 2020, it will need to perform well during that tough seven-game stretch, which is why the bye week should work in the Falcons' favor. Some time off for the players to recover and for the coaching staff to re-examine their game plan will be crucial before those final seven games.
"What's unique about the back half – or let's just call it the second half, I guess – is playing some division games twice in three weeks," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said when discussing the schedule with Matt Tabeek. "What's good about those is your game planning, you know those teams well anyway. So, the last game only being two games prior with one game in between there will be (some mind games)."
Having the bye week late in the year will mean the Falcons will have to try to sort out any early-season issues on the fly. Atlanta ended the 2019 season looking like a very different team than the one at the start of the season, and the Falcons appeared to have learned some important lessons along the way.
In fact, that late-season improvement has been a trademark of the Falcons under Quinn. Since he took over in 2015, the Falcons are a combined 16-4 over the final four games of each season. Their win percentage of 80 percent is second among all NFL teams behind only the Chiefs, who have gone 17-3 in that stretch.
Should the Falcons' late-season play carry over to the upcoming 2020 season, they won't need an early week off to look beneath the hood and diagnose any major issues. What they will need is a break later in the schedule before facing some of the best teams in the NFL.
That's exactly what they've got.