New Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, center, is flanked by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, left, and vice president John Elway during a news conference at the NFL Denver Broncos headquarters in Englewood, Colo., on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. (Associated Press)
SAVE THE DATE: Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will face the Falcons on Monday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in the team’s home opener at the Georgia Dome.
The NFL released the full league exhibition and regular schedule on Tuesday. The Falcons were selected to play four national televised games. The Falcons will also play Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit in nationally televised games.
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys face the Falcons at 8:20 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Georgia Dome. The game will be televised by NBC.
The Falcons host the New Orleans Saints, the defending NFC South champions, at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29th on the NFL Network.
In what was a hotly contested game last season that concluded with accusations of nastiness and bad sportsmanship, the Falcons will travel to play Calvin Johnson and the upstart Detroit Lions at 8:30 p.m. Sat., Dec. 22 at Ford Field. ESPN will televise the game.
The Falcons get a rematch with the New York Giants at Georgia Dome, too. The Giants, on their way to the Super Bowl title, eliminated the Falcons from the playoffs last season, come to town for a 1 p.m. game Sunday, Dec. 16.
The league showed the Falcons a great deal of respect with four national appearances. The maximum for any team is five.
Since 2008 under coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have posted a 43-21 mark (.672), which is the fifth-best record in the league over that period and the best four-year mark in team history.
Only New England (48-16, .750), New Orleans (45-19, .703), Pittsburgh (45-19,.703) and Baltimore (44-20, .688) have posted better marks. New England, New Orleans and Pittsburgh (twice) have accounted for four Super Bowl appearances over that span.
The Falcons have the 24th toughest schedule (125-131, .488) based on opponents 2011 records and they play only four teams that had winning records last season in the New York Giants, Saints (twice) and Detroit.
THE PRESEASON SCHEDULE
- Thur., Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m. vs. BALTIMORE (CBS Atlanta)
- Thur., Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. vs. CINCINNATI FOX (National)
- Fri., Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Miami (CBS Atlanta)
- Thur., Aug. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Jacksonville (CBS Atlanta)
THE 2012 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
- Sun., Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. at Kansas City (7-9) (FOX):Last meeting – With Tyler Thigpen at the controls of Chan Gailey’s offense, the Falcons won 38-14 on Sept. 21, 2008.
If the Redskins select Baylor's Robert Griffin III, he could be playing his fifth NFL game against the Falcons. Photo Credit: AP
Mon., Sept. 17 – 8:30 p.m. vs. Denver (8-8)(ESPN):
After playing 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and missing last season, Manning is trying to revive his career with the Broncos. Last meeting: Jay Cutler guided the Broncos to a 24-20 victory at the Georgia Dome on Nov. 16, 2008.
- Sun., Sept. 23 at 4:05 p.m. at San Diego (8-8) (FOX): Last meeting: In Michael Turner’s homecoming game, he rushed 31 times for 120 yards in a 22-16 victory over his former team on Nov. 30. 2008.
- Sun., Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. vs. Carolina (6-10) (FOX): Local product Cam Newton returns home to try to get his first win over the Falcons. Last meetings: The Falcons swept the Panthers last season, 31-17 at home on Oct. 16, 2011 and 31-23 in Charlotte on Dec. 11.
- Sun., Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. at Washington (5-11) (FOX):Last meeting: Former Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall got into a rumble on the Falcons’ sidelines that led to coach Mike Smith ($15,000) and strength coach Jeff Fish ($2,500) getting fined. The Falcons won the rumble and the game, 35-27.
- Sun., Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. vs. Oakland (8-8) (CBS): The Raiders have Reggie McKenzie, one of their former players, at the controls. He gets to show what he learned in Green Bay under Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson for the last 18 years. Last meeting: The Falcons amassed 30 first downs in the 24-0 rout on Nov. 2, 2008. JaMarcus Russell led the Raiders to three first downs.
- BYE WEEK 7
- Sun., Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. at Philadelphia (8-8) (FOX): Fans finally got the Michael Vick vs. Matt Ryan matchup last season and Ryan won. Injuries interceded in the two previous meetings. Vick committed three turnovers and
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (88) breaks away from Atlanta Falcons defenders to score on a 72-yard touchdown pass during the second half Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)
was knocked out of the game last season. Ryan, was Matty Ice, directing the Falcons back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Last meeting: The Falcons pulled a 35-31 victory with two fourth-quarter touchdowns on Sept. 18, 2011.
- Sun., Nov. 4, 8:20 p.m. vs. Dallas (8-8) (NBC): The Cowboys hope to be contenders in the rugged NFC East. Last meeting: Former Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking’s celebration got out of hand after the Cowboys beat the Falcons 37-21 on Oct. 25, 2009.
- Sun., Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. at New Orleans (13-3) (FOX): Last meetings: New Orleans beat the Falcons 26-23 in overtime at the Georgia Dome after a failed fourth-down conversion and routed the Falcons 45-16 in New Orleans on Dec. 26, 2011.
- Sun., Nov. 18. at 1 p.m. vs. Arizona (8-8) (FOX): Last meeting: The Falcons routed the Cardinals 41-7 on Sept. 11, 2010 at the Georgia Dome.
- Sun, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. at Tampa Bay (4-12) (FOX): Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers coach, is the Bucs new head man. Last meetings: The two teams split last season. Tampa Bay won 16-13 at home on Sept. 25, but were steamrolled 45-25 on Jan. 1 at the Georgia Dome.
- Thur., Nov. 29 at 8:20 vs. New Orleans (13-3) (NFLN): The Saints should have their players back from any suspensions imposed by
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) fumbles the ball, stripped by Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56). (Jason Getz / firstname.lastname@example.org
commissioner Roger Goodell for this one.
- Sun., Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. at Carolina (6-10) (FOX):Second matchup of the season.
- Sun., Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. vs. New York Giants (9-7) (FOX): The defending Super Bowl champions have the most difficult schedule in the league based on opponents 2011 records. Their opponents were 140-116 (.547) and they face seven teams that posted winning records. Last meeting:The Giants defeated the Falcons 24-2 in the wildcard round of the playoffs last season.
- Sat., Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m. at Detroit (10-6) (ESPN): This was a hotly contested battle last season at Ford Field. Falcons center Todd McClure said Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avrilwere poor sports and that Suh called for a cart when Ryan was down with an ankle injury. Suh denied the allegations. The Falcons went after Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford with a lot of pressure early and shook him up. Last meeting: The Falcons won 23-16 in a nasty and hard fought game on Oct. 23, 2011.
- Sun., Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay (4-12) (FOX): The second meeting could have playoff ramifications.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog
Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.