It took him 16 years, but Tony Gonzalez was finally part of a playoff win last season. Matt Ryan also lifted some weight off of his shoulders as he led the Atlanta Falcons to the best record in the NFC and a divisional-round victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Falcons sputtered against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of the NFC championship, but nothing can be taken away from them. Atlanta put together a terrific season, and the future appears brighter than ever.
Gonzalez will return to the team in 2013 in search of an elusive Super Bowl ring where he’ll be joined in the hunt by some fresh faces and veterans that now know what it takes to win in the playoffs. The 2013 season is finally closing in, so it’s time to start looking ahead.
With some tough non-division rivals on the schedule, the Falcons face a rough road to another playoff berth. We’ll take a look at the full schedule and break down a crucial matchup that could be a precursor to another playoff showdown.
|2013 Atlanta Falcons Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||at New Orleans Saints||1 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sept. 15 ||vs. St. Louis Rams||1 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22 ||at Miami Dolphins||4:05 p.m.||FOX|
|4||Sept. 29||vs. New England Patriots||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|5||Oct. 7||vs. New York Jets||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|6||Oct. 13||BYE WEEK|
|7||Oct. 20||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|8||Oct. 27||at Arizona Cardinals||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|9||Nov. 3||at Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|10||No. 10||vs. Seattle Seahawks||1 p.m.||FOX|
|11||Nov. 17||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1 p.m.||FOX|
|12||Nov. 21||vs. New Orleans Saints||8:25 p.m.||TBA|
|13||Dec. 1||at Buffalo Bills||4:05 p.m||FOX|
|14||Dec. 8||at Green Bay Packers|| |
|15||Dec. 15||vs. Washington Redskins||1 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 23 ||at San Francisco 49ers||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. Carolina Panthers||1 p.m.||FOX|
Note: For a complete look at Atlanta's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
Apart from a typically difficult NFC South schedule, the Falcons will also square off with the AFC East and a handful of elite squads from the rest of the NFC.
Of Atlanta’s non-divisional opponents, five made the playoffs last season, including the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Nothing about this schedule will be easy.
Atlanta’s deadly passing attack was its strength in 2012, but some stingy defenses lie ahead in 2013. San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Carolina all fielded top-10 defensive units last season, and the NFC South has improved tremendously on that front this offseason.
Atlanta is an elite NFL team, and 10-plus wins this season won’t be out of reach. Just don’t expect those wins to come easily—according to NFL.com, the Falcons have the 15th-toughest schedule based on last year's standings.
Which team will pose the most difficult matchup for Atlanta in 2013?
No opponent presents a more intriguing matchup than the San Francisco 49ers. After knocking the Falcons out of the playoffs last season, Atlanta will enter week 16 with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove.
New England, Green Bay and Seattle will also provide must-watch affairs, but don’t expect the New Orleans Saints to lose nine games again this season. With Sean Payton back at the helm, Drew Brees and the Saints are poised for a bounce-back year.
The NFL didn’t do Atlanta any favors with this schedule. Given the quality opponents on the slate in 2013, the Falcons will have to consider every game a must-win matchup.