Falcons head coach Mike Smith isn't looking too far beyond the first game of the regular season against Kansas City this coming Sunday.
Smith said on Monday he's focusing on the first quarter of the schedule, something he's discussed in the past. The first four games on the 2012 slate feature talented quarterbacks and Smith knows he won't have a lot of time to get his team ready to face such talent.
"It's challenging early on through the first quarter of the season," Smith said on Monday. "We're going to play three very good quarterbacks that have gone to the Pro Bowl in the first quarter. We break our season down into quarters, and we've got three quarterbacks in our first four games that have been to Pro Bowls."
After Kansas City, the Falcons will face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos at home on Monday night in the second week of the season. After that, they'll travel to San Diego and return home for a NFC South matchup with the Carolina Panthers.
Smith reminded everyone that a schedule at the beginning of the season looks different once the games begin. Teams will surprise everyone by playing worse than expected or better than expected, a reason why he takes the season in four bite-size portions.
The Falcons will face three teams that made the playoffs last season, the Giants, Lions and Saints. For the third straight season they'll face the defending Super Bowl champs.
"I don't think it's any more challenging than any other year," Smith said. "There is always the unknown when you start the regular season. Everybody is working on different things in the preseason and trying to put their team together, build their team, and get to a 53-man roster. Now that we've done that we're going to get an opportunity to kick off and play. I know our guys are anxious. We haven't started our game planning. We'll start that on Wednesday."
Traveling to Kansas City, the Falcons will open the season on the road for the third consecutive season. Four of their games will be nationally televised games this season, the second straight year they've played four primetime games. One quirk of this year's schedule is the lack of a back-to-back home or road games. Atlanta's 2012 opponents posted a 125-131 record last season.