Falcons schedule analysis

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Breakdown: The Falcons won't play a team that had a losing record in 2008 until Week 5 when they play San Francisco. Things don't get much easier after that and November will be critical for the Falcons.

That's when they play the NFC South's three other teams on the road. The NFC South set a league record for winning home games last season. Winning division games at home would be nice, but the Falcons need to win a game or two against division foes on the road if they want a shot at the division title.

The Falcons caught a bit of a break with a rare three-game home stretch that starts in late November. But the opponents for that are difficult (Bucs, Eagles and Saints).

Complaint department: The league didn't do the Falcons any favors with a five-game stretch in the middle of the season that figures to be very challenging and includes only one home game. The stretch starts with road games at Dallas and New Orleans and ends with trips to play the Panthers and Giants. There's a home game sandwiched between, but that's against the Redskins and it won't be easy.

The Matt Ryan factor: Remember this time last year when a lot of folks were saying the Falcons would be the worst team in the league? That won't be the case this year. Largely because of the presence of Matt Ryan, the Falcons might be a media darling. Ryan is the major reason why the Falcons will appear twice in prime time.

Atlanta Falcons regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 MIAMI DOLPHINS 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 CAROLINA PANTHERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 at New England Patriots 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: BYE WEEK
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11 at San Francisco 49ers 4:05 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 CHICAGO BEARS 8:20 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 at Dallas Cowboys 4:15 p.m.
Week 8: Monday, Nov. 2 at New Orleans Saints 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8 WASHINGTON REDSKINS 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15 at Carolina Panthers 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 at N.Y. Giants 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 at N.Y. Jets 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27 BUFFALO BILLS 1:00 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.