The Falcons had to make big changes after finishing 4-12 and falling into last place in the NFC South last season. Atlanta hired a new offensive-minded head coach, Arthur Smith, hoping for a big turnaround when navigating through its 2021 schedule.
Matt Ryan gives the Falcons a high floor at quarterback and there are signs that his supporting cast, from blocking to skill players, will be more effective to boost him this season. The defense, which couldn't get solved to satisfaction under former coach Dan Quinn, is the lingering question.
What will the latest Smith Era bring immediately to Atlanta? Here is a complete breakdown of the Falcons’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.
Atlanta Falcons schedule 2021
The Falcons open the season on Sunday, Sept. 12, at home against the Eagles. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET on Fox.
Here is the Atlanta Falcons' complete schedule for 2021.
Home: Eagles, Washington, Patriots, Jets, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, Lions
Away: Bills, Cowboys, Dolphins, Giants, Panthers, Saints, Buccaneers, 49ers, Jaguars
|1||Sept. 12||vs. Eagles||1 p.m. ET||Fox|
|2||Sept. 19||at Bucs||4:05 p.m.||Fox|
|3||Sept. 26||at Giants||1 p.m.||Fox|
|4||Oct. 3||vs. WFT||1 p.m.||Fox|
|5||Oct. 10||vs. Jets (in London)||9:30 a.m.||NFL Network|
|7||Oct. 24||at Dolphins||1 p.m.||Fox|
|8||Oct. 31||vs. Panthers||1 p.m.||Fox|
|9||Nov. 7||at Saints||1 p.m.||Fox|
|10||Nov. 14||at Cowboys||1 p.m.||Fox|
|12||Nov. 28||at Jaguars||1 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Dec. 5||vs. Bucs||1 p.m.||Fox|
|14||Dec. 12||at Panthers||1 p.m.||Fox|
|15||Dec. 19||at 49ers||4:05 p.m.||CBS|
|16||Dec. 26||vs. Lions||1 p.m.||Fox|
|17||Jan. 2||at Bills||1 p.m.||Fox|
|18||Jan. 9||vs. Saints||1 p.m.||Fox|
The Falcons are stuck in the division with the Super Bowl 55 champion Buccaneers and the reigning NFC South champion Saints. Those teams, plus the Panthers, make up 6 of their now 17 games per usual.
Outside of the South, Atlanta also draws the entire NFC East and AFC East. The last-place games are against the Lions and the 49ers in the NFC and the nearby Jaguars from the AFC.
Falcons strength of schedule
The Falcons are favored with the third-easiest schedule in the NFL, with only the Cowboys and Eagles having it better. Atlanta's 2021 opponents posted a combined record of 123-148-1 last season, for a .454 winning percentage.
The Buccaneers and Saints account for facing four playoff teams. Luckily, the Falcons draw only two more outside the division, the Bills and Washington.
Toughest tests: The Falcons' road schedule is deceptive. The 49ers are more like the 2019 version and the Dolphins were a near-playoff team in 2020. Then beyond the visits to the Bills, Bucs and Saints, the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys and the revamped Giants also loom.
Biggest breaks: There isn't much after the Jaguars, Jets and Lions. The Eagles and Patriots are winnable games at home. The Falcons' biggest goal might be just displacing the Panthers in front of them in the standings.
Bottom line: The Falcons have a weird schedule because their "weak" games are tougher than they appear, while their "tough" games aren't as stacked as they seem. With the built-in difficulties, it's hard to expect a big jump in win total.
Smith will get the offense rolling, but the defense will hurt Atlanta with a lot of a high-scoring teams on the slate.
Record prediction: 6-11