ATLANTA - After two straight 7-9 campaigns, the Falcons are looking ahead to the 2020 season. On Thursday night, that schedule was officially set.
As the team’s new television broadcast partner, FOX 5 will locally broadcast three of the Falcons' preseason games and 13 of their regular-season games.
Here's the full schedule and an update on each opponent:
- Week 1 (Sept. 13, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. Seattle Seahawks (11-5 record last season): Who you know on this team is Russell Wilson; who will be an old face in a new place will be Greg Olsen, who the Seahawks signed in February. Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney could return to the Seahawks, but he remains a free agent.
- Week 2 (Sept. 20, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): at Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is the new sherriff in Dallas, and he inherits a good roster that was strengthened in free agency and the draft. Now, the hype for their first-round receiver, Oklahoma product CeeDee Lamb, is through the rood. The Cowboys even brought in former Bengal Andy Dalton to back up or compete with Dak Prescott, whose long-term deal still hasn't gotten done. Dallas narrowly missed out on the NFC East title last year and looks to be a solid team again.
- Week 3 (Sept. 27, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. Chicago Bears (8-8): After taking a significant step back last season from its 12-4 record and NFC North title in 2018, Chicago traded this offseason for Nick Foles, who will compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting QB job.
- Week 4 (Oct. 5, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN): at Green Bay Packers (13-3): Drama in Green Bay came out of nowhere when the Packers traded up to take quarterback Jordan Love No. 26 during the NFL Draft last month when many thought the Packers would target another weapon for Aaron Rodgers to throw to, besides newest Packer Devin Funchess. Meanwhile, second-year head coach Matt LaFleur looks to be shaping up an offense that looks very similar to that of his former boss, Kyle Shanahan, with a ground-heavy attack that could give the Falcons run defense (No. 18 last season) trouble.
- Week 5 (Oct. 11, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. Carolina Panthers (5-11): The Falcons have won seven of their last eight contests against Carolina, and the Panthers have never won at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In fact, the last time Carolina won in Atlanta was a winner-take-all game for the NFC South title in 2014.
- Week 6 (Oct. 18, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): at Minnesota Vikings (10-6): The Falcons began a rough 2019 campaign at Minnesota last year, falling 28-12. After that, Minnesota made the playoffs and finally got a healthy season from Dalvin Cook. Since then, the Vikings cleaned house at wide receiver outside of Adam Thielen, trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, letting Laquon Treadwell join the Falcons in free agency, and then drafting LSU receiver Justin Jefferson. Including Jefferson, the Vikings added an NFL-record 15 prospects during last month's draft and look to make the playoffs once again.
- Week 7 (Oct. 25, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. Detroit Lions (3-12-1): In addition to Matthew Stafford, the Lions now have another former Bulldog: running back D’Andre Swift, who Detroit drafted in the second round last month. Stafford is coming back from a back injury last season.
- Week 8 (Thursday, Oct. 29, 8:20 p.m. on FOX 5): at Carolina Panthers (5-11): With a new coach in Matt Rhule and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina will look different this season. The Panthers' roster still has holes as it's being overhauled -- even after drafting Lanier product Derrick Brown No. 7 overall -- so the Falcons will hope to dominate as they did last year against the Panthers: winning by a combined margin of 69-23.
- Week 9 (Nov. 8, 1 p.m. on CBS): vs. Denver Broncos (7-9): This was reportedly the game the Falcons would have played in London, before the NFL cancelled its international series this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Quarterback Drew Lock is still developing, but the Broncos have given him some speedy targets to throw to, plus they added two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon to complement Phillip Lindsay. Denver hopes to start challenging the Chiefs in the AFC West with their young core but might still experience some growing pains this season.
- Week 10 (Nov. 15): Bye week
- Week 11 (Nov. 22, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): at New Orleans Saints (13-3): For all the Falcons' struggles on the field last season, their most emphatic win was at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last year. Interestingly, the Falcons and Saints sit at an even 25-25 record in regular-season contests played in New Orleans.
- Week 12 (Nov. 29, 1 p.m. on CBS): vs. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9): Unfortunately for Falcons fans who might want to plan a Sin City road trip, this game won't be played in Vegas for the Raiders' inaugural season there. Quarterback Derek Carr had a career season last year, but the pressure on him is increasing as the Raiders bring in loads of fresh talent around him during the franchise's big overhaul since Jon Gruden came to the helm in 2018. They struggled with consistency on the back end of last season after a 6-4 start and will hope to get started strong and take another step forward towards the playoffs in 2020.
- Week 13 (Dec. 6, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. New Orleans Saints (13-3): The Saints have marched in three straight division crowns, and the Falcons' rival remains a solid team this season. Drew Brees remains and Taysom Hill has been signed to a two-year contract extension, but the Saints also brought in Jameis Winston this offseason on a one-year deal. To line up opposite Michael Thomas, New Orleans brought in Emmanuel Sanders, which bolsters an already-strong offensive attack. With this perhaps being Brees' last year, New Orleans is all in on winning now and has the roster to do so again.
- Week 14 (Dec. 13, 4:25 p.m. on FOX 5): at Los Angeles Chargers (5-11): The Chargers are entering a new chapter as a franchise after parting ways with Philip Rivers this offseason. To replace him, Los Angeles looks to Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert, their No. 6 overall pick in last month's draft. Since the Chargers' inception in 1960, the Falcons have dominated the all-time series, 8-2.
- Week 15 (Dec. 20, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): While Tom Brady is just joining the Bucs, he is 5-0 all-time against Atlanta, including a particularly painful Super Bowl LI loss for the Falcons. In those five career contests against the Falcons, Brady has thrown 109 completions for 1,442 yards, one interception and 11 touchdowns, while being sacked six times and fumbling twice. The Buccaneers' receiver corps was already talented before Brady's arrival, but now the Falcons will also figure out how to defend Rob Gronkowski twice a year.
- Week 16 (Dec. 27, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4): Patrick Mahomes already has a league MVP trophy and a Super Bowl title, but it still felt like he was just getting started. This will be a tall task for the Falcons, with the game being played at Arrowhead Stadium making this one that more daunting. On top of that, 20 of the 22 players that started the Super Bowl for Kansas City return this season, making back-to-back Lombardi Trophies a very plausible possibility for the Chiefs.
- Week 17 (Jan. 3, 1 p.m. on FOX 5): at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): The Falcons have topped the Bucs four straight times at Raymond James Stadium, most recently with a spectacular pick-six in overtime to win last season's final game, which also marked Jameis Winston's last pass as a Buccaneer.
The NFL also released preseason opponents Thursday. Atlanta will face Miami (Preseason Week 1) and Cincinnati (Preseason Week 3 – Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and travel to Buffalo (Preseason Week 2) and Jacksonville (Preseason Week 4). A full preseason schedule with dates and times will be released later in May.
The Falcons struggled to get going in the first half of 2019, going just 1-7 in their first eight games, and they will look to come out stronger in 2020.
Atlanta has two primetime games on its slate, including a Monday Night Football game in Green Bay and a Thursday Night Football Game at the Carolina Panthers. Atlanta has won its last five Monday night matchups.
The bolstered NFC South will provide challenges for the Falcons defense, which will now have to face Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Teddy Bridgewater twice a year. The Falcons will not see Brady or Brees until the second half of the season, which means from Week 11 to Week 17, Atlanta faces Brees twice, Brady twice as well as Mahomes (Week 16).
"I think it'll be fun," Falcons safety Ricardo Allen said. "You have to play them anyways. You're going to have to put them on the schedule. If you're going to put them at the beginning of the schedule, it'll be fun; if you put them at the end of the schedule it's going to be fun. So it's like, yeah, you want to space those kinds of guys out, but there isn't any more pushover quarterbacks in this league anymore."
The final three weeks could prove to be tough, with two contests against Tampa Bay with a road trip to Kansas City sandwiched in between.
In Dan Quinn's tenure, the Falcons have compiled a .333 winning percentage against AFC opponents.