ATLANTA - The Falcons already knew who they would be playing and where this upcoming season, but Thursday night's schedule release revealed the order of those contests, the date of the bye week, and most importantly for Dan Quinn, the flow of road trips versus home games. And the Falcons don't have back-to-back road games until the final two weeks of the season when they travel to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
"What you're looking for as a competitor is to find some routine that can kind of get you into a natural flow. So sometimes playing on Mondays and Thursdays and when byes fall, that can kind of take you out of rhythm," Dan Quinn told FOX 5 Sports on Friday. "So home and road and kind of going back and forth on that, it definitely has its advantages."
The slate was going to be a challenging one, no matter the order, due to the Falcons having to square up against some of the league's most elite quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson.
Atlanta kicks off its season at home against Wilson and his Seahawks, followed by a road trip to Dallas in Week 2, hosting Chicago in Week 3 and then traveling to legendary Lambeau Field for a Monday Night Football date with Green Bay in Week 4.
"You get excited because you really get a chance to see where you're at early on. I really think our team has the makings for a special season, and knowing how it all lays out, knowing exactly what you're going to need to play well, those are the things that you look for," Quinn said. "So that was kind of the theme even before it came out: There were some really talented quarterbacks, and so that kind of lights you up, and you say, 'All right, we're going to know right where we're at, right off the bat.' And I love tests and getting tested, because they're going to have to deal with us, too."
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 15: Wide receiver Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons and head coach Dan Quinn celebrates Jones' touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on December 15, 2019
The Falcons don't see Brady or Brees until the second half of the season. The Falcons play the Saints twice in a span of three weeks and follow that up by hosting the Bucs, then travelling to Tampa and Kansas City.
"(That stretch) is really important because that's when you really want to be hitting your stride, in the second half of the season because hopefully that's propelling you into the postseason," Quinn said. "Especially this year, there's another playoff spot in both conferences, so I would suspect that those games that happen in Week 16 and Week 17 will have a direct correlation, not just to win the division but to secure extra playoff spots. We've got a really strong division, and it will come down to the end, I would suspect."
But to be in the conversation in late December, the Falcons must start stronger than their 1-7 beginning to 2019.
"Our team has traditionally been stronger as we go, which makes sense. Our focus really has to be starting stronger," Quinn said. "The last two years, that wasn't the case. So for us, to make sure to have that good ending mean extra, you better have a really good, strong start."
Atlanta was going to play host during a game in London before the NFL's international series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they gain a game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"If it was a road trip where we had to go, that would've been like, 'Ah too bad,' but the silver lining is getting to be back home for another game in front of the fans and the city, so that counts a lot," Quinn said. "I'm sure we'll all get our chance, another chance another time to bring the black and red out to the UK, but not this year. We totally understand why, but the silver lining is one more home game for us."
At the end of the day, with so much uncertainty in the world outside of football right now, Quinn said it's good to just have a target date to shoot for and something concrete to look forward to now, for the Falcons and their fans alike.
"We all know that eventually we're going to get back to playing ball. So, having the schedule maybe gets you a stamp on that," he said. "We knew who we were playing, but it was still kind of just out there, so to have some concrete dates, just to know we're going full speed ahead in terms of laying it out in this fashion, that's good."