NFL releases 2013 schedule; Falcons open on road at Saints

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will open their 2013-14 season against rival New Orleans.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will open their 2013-14 season against rival New Orleans.

The Baltimore Ravens will open the defense of their Super Bowl title on the road at the Denver Broncos on Thursday, Sept. 5, in a rematch of last season’s classic playoff game.

That announcement was made official with the release of the full 2013 regular-season schedule Thursday. Other premier matchups include:

Week 1: The Green Bay Packers play at San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game.

Week 12: Denver travels to face the New England Patriots in receiver Wes Welker’s return to Gillette Stadium.

Week 16: The Ravens play host to the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

The Ravens have a well-placed bye in Week 8 - right after their first-meeting of the season with the division-rival Steelers at Pittsburgh. The rematch will be in Baltimore on Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving. The Ravens also have a Monday night road game at the Detroit Lions.

The 49ers follow the tough season opener with a trip to the Seattle Seahawks on SNF in Week 2. San Francisco also has a Thursday night game at the St. Louis Rams in Week 4, a Sunday night home game against the Houston Texans the following week and a pair of Monday Night Football games — at Washington in Week 12 and at home against Atlanta on Week 16, two days before Christmas.

FALCONS SCHEDULE RELEASED: The Falcons open the season on the road for the fourth consecutive season, traveling to New Orleans to battle their NFC South Division rival Saints.

This year, Atlanta’s schedule includes five nationally televised games, including appearances on Sunday Night Football against the New England Patriots (Week 4) and at the Green Bay Packers (Week 14) on NBC. Atlanta’s schedule will also include Monday Night matchups against the New York Jets (Week 5) and at the San Francisco 49ers (Week 16) on ESPN. For the second straight year, the Falcons will host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football (Week 12) on NFL Network. Along with five primetime games, Atlanta will also play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto at the Rogers Centre (Week 13).

In addition to the customary home and away matchups with their NFC South rivals, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, Atlanta will also battle the NFC West as the AFC East. The Falcons will also host the NFC East champion Washington Redskins and travel to Green Bay to play the NFC North champion Packers. Atlanta’s 2013 opponents posted a combined 107-99-2 (.519) record last season and since the NFL realigned its divisions in 2002, the Falcons are 33-33 against the NFC South. Under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have posted a 56-24 (.700) overall record, which is the second-best record in the NFL over the last five seasons.

Along with a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game against the 49ers in San Francisco (Week 16), the Falcons will face four additional playoff teams from 2012. Atlanta will host Seattle (Week 10), Washington (Week 15), and New England (Week 4), and travel to Green Bay (Week 14).

The Falcons play two teams featuring first time head coaches, Arizona (Week 8) and Buffalo (Week 13). Smith has compiled an 11-0 record against first time head coaches in his five seasons in Atlanta.