Falcons not expected to open against Patriots in Super Bowl rematch

January 10, 2017, Atlanta: The progress of the new Falcons Mercedes-Benz Stadium is seen with cranes rising from the floor through the retractable roof on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ schedule for the upcoming 2017 season is set to be released by the league the week of April 17th.

In recent years the Super Bowl teams have opened in a rematch to kickoff the season on a Thursday night nationally televised game.

The Falcons’ new stadium is a driving factor that may cause the game at New England to be played during the opening week, according to what Peter King of TheMMQB.SI.com was hearing at the owner’s meetings last week.

Nothing has changed from my post-Super Bowl opinion that Atlanta at New England is probably not going to be the NFL’s opening game on Sept. 7. One thing I learned in Phoenix that will have a huge bearing on the Patriots’ guest in Week 1: the factor of the new stadium in Atlanta.

The Falcons believe they will play on the road (but not in New England) in Week 1, then open their new stadium on Sunday night of Week 2 against an undisclosed opponent. The NFL will announce the 2017 schedule in mid- to late April.

So if Atlanta opens at home on national TV in an NBC game in Week 2, the Falcons almost certainly will not play on NBC to open the season in Week 1. Which leaves open the best possibility I listed seven weeks ago in this column: Kansas City at New England. Could be Houston, could be Carolina. But my money’s on Kansas City. The fact that the Chiefs have an excellent defense and a competitive offense, and the fact that they’re likely to play the Patriots tough (K.C.’s had one double-digit loss in its past 31 games) gives Andy Reid’s team the best chance to play at Foxboro in game one of 256 in 2017. This way, the league can save Atlanta-New England for a big Sunday night game on NBC later in the season, or for a key FOX doubleheader game.

Falcons officials said on March 28 that they expect to receive an update within seven to 10 days on the construction timeline for Mercedes-Benz Stadium — an update that should determine whether the retractable roof will be completed in time for the stadium’s scheduled opening.

Issues with the complex roof already have delayed the opening twice, first pushing back the target from March 1 to June 1 and then pushing it back further to July 30, and appear to threaten another delay.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s first scheduled event is an Atlanta United soccer match on July 30, followed by two more soccer matches in August and two Chick-fil-A Kickoff college football games in early September: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4.

The 2017 Falcons scheduled includes games against the four teams in the NFC North, the four teams in the AFC East teams plus Dallas and Seattle.

The Falcons will face Green Bay and Minnesota from the NFC North at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and travel to play Chicago and Detroit. AFC East teams Buffalo and Miami will visit the Georgia Dome while the Falcons will play at New England and the New York Jets.

As the 2016 NFC South champions, the Falcons will face the champs of the other two NFC divisions that aren’t part of the NFL’s regular schedule rotation. In 2017 the Falcons will play host to the NFC East champion Cowboys and play at NFC West champion Seattle for the second straight season.

The Falcons will play home-and-away games against NFC South foes Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

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