By John Fricke

With the Falcons heading to Pittsburgh for their second road game of the preseason, let’s look past the games that mean little and focus on the regular season, at the club’s 2017 road schedule.

I will rank them from easiest to hardest. Please respond with your rankings.

Truth be told Atlanta’s toughest game away from home will be in Minneapolis against the AFC champion.

8. at Chicago, Week 1 — The Bears might be an OK club by the end of things this season, but the Falcons will be itching to get back into real battles. This is just bad timing for the Bears, and it could get ugly early.

7. at NY Jets, Week 8 — The Jets are a mess. They might hang for a while, but it’s possible New York is a near two touchdown underdog at home in this game.

6. at Carolina, Week 9 — The biggest issue with this game is that it is the third of three straight road games (Pats, Jets and Panthers back-to-back-to-back). Unless something drastic changes, the Panthers still look a lot more like last year’s last-place team than the outlier that was the 15-win club that went to the Super Bowl in 2015.

5. at New Orleans, Week 16 — The fact that this is the next-to-last game, that it is against hated rivals and that the place smells to high hell, all make this difficult. Still, this game might well be the one that clinches a lot of things for the Falcons this season. Atlanta will be on its “A-game” for this outing.

4. at Seattle, Week 11 — It’s loud, it’s outdoors in late November in the Pacific Northwest. There is the payback factor for the horrible non-call against Julio Jones last season. But still, the Seahawks are tough to beat at home.

3. at Detroit, Week 3 — I don’t like this game. I haven’t since the schedule came out. Third of three straight against the NFC North to start the season. The Lions are a solid club with playoff aspirations. Heck, things go right, the Lions could win 11 and be division champs. I believe this is the first game of the season the Falcons will have to fight like mad to win.

2. at New England, Week-7 — It might seem on paper this is the toughest. Defending champs, powerhouse, Tom Brady, Super Bowl reminders and the like. It won’t be easy in Foxboro, but even if it’s not full revenge, the Falcons are gunning for this shot. Dan Quinn was hoping this would be the season opener, but it’s fine where it is. Should be a fabulous game.

1. at Tampa Bay, Week 15 — If the division title is on the line (and it might well be), then this is the biggest game (home or road) on the Falcons’ schedule this season. Of course it’s dependent on the Bucs living up to the expectations many have of them as a playoff team capable of winning 10-11 games. The Saints and Panthers might both be bigger rivals in the division, but the Bucs are the far larger threat right now.

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