The NFL released the preseason schedule on Thursday. Dates and times haven't been announced for all games, but here's a first look at the opponents for the Atlanta Falcons:
Week 1 (Aug. 11-15) vs. Washington Redskins
Comment: Though nothing too significant will be on the line in early August, these are two rising teams that could wind up in a tight battle for playoff spots by year's end. While the Falcons went 8-8 last year in coach Dan Quinn's debut season, the Redskins did them one better by winning the NFC East at 9-7 under the direction of coach Jay Gruden and QB Kirk Cousins. This will be the first preseason meeting between these two teams since 2004.
Week 2 (Aug. 18-22) at Cleveland Browns
Comment: New Falcons center Alex Mack will return to his former home. But it's the Browns' quarterbacks who will be under the spotlight in this one. Newly signed Robert Griffin III will be trying to resurrect his career while probably battling the No. 2 pick in this year's draft (Carson Wentz? Jared Goff?) Atlanta lacks the QB drama, but at least Matt Ryan should play a little more in this game than he does in Week 1. These are also unfamiliar preseason foes who last met in the 2003 preseason.
Week 3 (Thursday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m. ET on NBC) at Miami Dolphins
Comment: This will be the real dress rehearsal for the regular season, since it's on national TV and since starters typically play the most in the third preseason game. Another one of the Falcons' top free-agent signings, DE Derrick Shelby, will be facing his former team. The new-look Dolphins, meanwhile, will feature newcomers like DE Mario Williams, LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell. This will be the fifth preseason meeting between Atlanta in Miami in the past six years.
Week 4 (Thursday, Sept. 1, time TBA) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comment: Let's face it. Games don't get much less exciting than preseason finales against the Jaguars. It will be the final preseason game ever played in the Georgia Dome, so there's that. These familiar foes will meet in the preseason for the sixth time in the past seven years.