Falcons start schedule with showdown against Super Bowl champs

Matt Ryan has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in each of the past seven seasons. Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Atlanta Falcons.

Breakdown: Despite starting the season with a tough Thursday night road matchup against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles -- one of three prime-time games -- the Falcons have a favorable early-season slate. They follow the trip to Philadelphia with three consecutive home games against the Panthers, Saints and Bengals. They have the potential to get off to a 3-0 start in NFC South play with a Week 6 matchup against the Buccaneers also at home. The last seven games will be quite challenging, including a Thanksgiving night battle with bitter rival New Orleans, a December road trip to what could be frigid Green Bay, and season-ending road division games against the Panthers and Buccaneers. Of course, there will be much intrigue about facing storied franchises Pittsburgh and Dallas on the road and at home, respectively.

Battle of the bucks: Both Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers should become much wealthier in the near future. Ryan is set to get a contract extension, probably well before their Dec. 9 clash at Lambeau Field. Ryan has one year left on his contract and could secure a deal worth just under $30 million per year, while Rodgers has two years left and his deal might be much more complicated than Ryan's.

Run-stuffer: The games between the Falcons and Panthers should be even more interesting now that Dontari Poe, the Falcons' run-stuffer last season, will suit up for Carolina. Poe did his job last season and probably didn't get enough credit, but he was too expensive to retain. Now Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and whoever else is in the Falcons' backfield will have to worry about contending with Poe along with the speedy Panthers' linebackers, led by Luke Kuechly. At least the Falcons won't have to see Thomas Davis, who is suspended the first four games for a PED violation, until later in the year.

Strength of schedule: 13th, .508

Falcons Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 6, at Philadelphia, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, New Orleans, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Monday, Oct. 22, N.Y. Giants, 8:15 p.m.

  • Week 8: BYE

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Washington, 1 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Dallas, 1 p.m.

  • Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, at New Orleans, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Baltimore, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, Arizona, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, at Carolina, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.