ESPN has the Falcons 8th-best in the NFL, which sounds low

Here we have an impartial panel who think the Falcons will be just dandy. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

One of these two is thinking the Falcons could go 16-0. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Falcons open camp Friday. As noted earlier, more than a few people are high on this team’s chances. We add to this growing list the folks who compile ESPN’s power rankings, the latest edition of which has the Falcons …

Ranked No. 8 in the 32-team NFL.

Given that the same ESPN had the Falcons 15th at the end of the 2009 regular season and 10th in the post-draft ranking, we’re witnessing a rising tide. But ESPN’s survey still doesn’t quite reflect the feeling I have for this team.

I think these Falcons will wind up being better than the eighth-best team in a 32-team league. I think they’ll be in the top five. (To be fair, John Clayton — one of ESPN’s four panelists — has the Falcons ranked fifth.) I think they’ll go 12-4, win the NFC South and play Dallas for the conference championship.

For the record, here are ESPN’s top seven teams: Indianapolis, New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas, Baltimore, Green Bay and the Jets. Four of those, you’ll note, play in the NFC. But it does have the Falcons ahead of New England and San Diego, which is saying something. And it does slot Carolina, which some observers fancy for no reason I can discern, at No. 22.

And here’s a telling stat: All four of ESPN’s voters — the others are Mike Sando, James Walker and Paul Kuharskyhave the Falcons rated No. 9 or better. That’s something approaching a consensus, I’d say.

128 comments Add your comment

POAD

July 27th, 2010
11:47 am

POAD

July 27th, 2010
11:48 am

I guess the Falcons are just going to have a few years of a winning record before they will get any respect.

Reid Adair

July 27th, 2010
11:54 am

Let the self-proclaimed experts predict whatever they want. I don’t care if it averages out to eighth, 15th or 32nd. I’m confident the team will produce on the field, and that’s really all that matters.

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
11:56 am

Kudos, POAD. And thanks for playing nice.

Don

July 27th, 2010
11:58 am

Sounds about right to me.
12-4. You’re crazy. But when are you ever right? 1/10 times.

Stephen D

July 27th, 2010
12:01 pm

Can’t wait to see the falcs suit up…Matt Ryan will have his best season yet, just wait

Asheville Dawg

July 27th, 2010
12:03 pm

Falcons go 10-6, make playoffs. Isn’t that all that matters? Saints win the division again.

joe

July 27th, 2010
12:05 pm

8th is about right…the obvious error is the Steelers at 19…way too big of a number, even without Big Ben for the first 4 or so games. They will win their division and challenge for the AFC title. I can also see an Atlanta vs Dallas NFC title game.

Mike Jay

July 27th, 2010
12:13 pm

Mark,

I don’t get the Carolina love either. I thought you had to have a quality QB to wo win in this league. Can anyone name Carolina’s startign QB?

Falcons will win 11-12 games and 1-2 playoff games. Superbowl victory in 2012.

Yurtle_the_Turtle

July 27th, 2010
12:15 pm

Who cares what ESPN has us ranked? I get tickled when I see fans (UGA, Falcon fans in particular) cry and moan about getting “respect” and such because some prognosticator somewhere has them ranked “x” or so. Who cares? Just pull for your team and get on with life. The Falcons will be fine, regardless where folks have them ranked.

nes

July 27th, 2010
12:15 pm

It’s all about what happened last year and any changes in personnel this year and the draft. The bottom line is producing wins on the field and not in the press. 12-4 not impossible with better play calling from Mularky–leaving Ryan in predictable blizes to be pounded around is not good. Also, Coach Smith can quit trying to get 3 points at the end of the first half which basically cost us two games last year when the other team ended up scoring in those two very close scoring games. Plus player improvement and better secondary points to a playoff team.

Ryder

July 27th, 2010
12:16 pm

Atlanta is still in the growing process, and with the veterans like Turner, Gonzalez, and Abraham leading, it will be imperative that their talented yet still-recovering younger role players (Jerry, Douglas, and Moore) stay on the field and be productive.

Don’t really care about ESPN rankings, all I want to see is Atlanta give the Saints their comeuppance.

Dr. Warren

July 27th, 2010
12:17 pm

Rarely, rarely, rarely do preseason predictions amount to anything. Half the teams they think will be great will be mediocre or stink and vice versa. I’ve made a habit of revisiting those predictions after the Super Bowl every year for my own amusement. Injuries rule the day in today’s NFL. Anything can happen.

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
12:17 pm

I really think the Falcons will finish ahead of the Saints, Ryder. For what little that is worth.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, ajc sports editor, ReidAdair, Alicia, Sara and others. Sara said: Way 2 low! RT @MarkBradleyAJC: ESPN has the #Falcons No. 8 in the NFL. Sounds a bit low to me. Not that anyone asked. http://bit.ly/boCXWr [...]

Chris

July 27th, 2010
12:20 pm

These blogs crack me up Mark. I mean really, do people actually think you don’t like THEIR team because you picked Tech third in their division or GA to only win nine?
Does anyone on here know that you really don’t have a dog in these fights? I’ve noticed when writing about KY basketball, you’re not even particularly biased one way or the other. Any of you people try picking games in Vegas against the line? It ain’t easy folks.

For my money, your opinions and predictions are usually pretty balanced and fair/based on facts and in line with national writers for the most part. I personally think they’re still a year away and winning 10 or 11 is more realistic and gets them into the playoffs.

Time Out

July 27th, 2010
12:25 pm

Vick would have this team Top 5 easily.

bigstack19

July 27th, 2010
12:30 pm

Falcons go 12-4 and beat Green Bay on their way to a Super Bowl showdown with the New England Patriots.

NATE DAWG

July 27th, 2010
12:31 pm

It’s about time we finally get our credit for our improvements in the NFL… I cant wait until this season finallly starts. I agree that the Falcons will be at least 12-4 and also will be in the NFC Championship Game but I can’t see Dallas being our opponent… Maybe Green Bay or Minnesota, I am predicting us to win this division and the NFC Championship… We are coming along way beyond our years… I will not eliminate us from the Super Bowl race.

Great Falconi

July 27th, 2010
12:31 pm

Twelve teams make the playoffs. Let’s be one of them.

RA

July 27th, 2010
12:36 pm

I think that all that the Falcons needed to beat the Saints at least once last year was a better pass rush…or perhaps a decent call on that Brent Grimes interception.

rekingball

July 27th, 2010
12:39 pm

I really don’t care about ANYTHING, that ESPN has to say. They are a hack network.
I think that the Falcons will finish at 12-4, at least, could easily finish better than that.

I look for the saints to take a big fall this year. The saints will not have the same advantages this year, that they had in 2009. And if their QB can not play, for any reason, the saints will not even have a chance for a winning season.

I also, believe that the Falcons will win the NFC South, and play for the NFC Championship.

RichT

July 27th, 2010
12:40 pm

Outside of a few analysts I would like regardless of their affiliation, ESPN as a whole has become unwatchable, and their collective opinions mean little to me. ESPN stopped being credible and important years ago.

timeworncliche'

July 27th, 2010
12:44 pm

It ain’t where you start…it’s where you finish…..

rekingball

July 27th, 2010
12:45 pm

I think ESPN put the final nail in their coffin, with Lebron swinging the hammer, a couple of weeks ago.

FalconUGAFan

July 27th, 2010
12:46 pm

At the beginning of 2009, the New Orleans Saints were ranked 19th in the ESPN power rankings.

FalconUGAFan

July 27th, 2010
12:50 pm

Just noticed the Falcons were rated 8th in 2009 also… :)

DawgDad

July 27th, 2010
1:04 pm

Seems about right to me. The offense is pretty easy to grade based on their production over the past couple of years. The defense has to get on the field and prove itself; defense plus injuries are the wild cards in this equation. No way should the Falcons be tabbed as a potential Super Bowl team until the defense establishes itself. That said, Arizona’s do happen from time to time.

Clearly, the best days for the Falcons appear to lie BEYOND this season as the young defenders mature and new weapons are added on offense. With the potential in-hand for this season, well, times are good for Falcons fans.

Dan

July 27th, 2010
1:08 pm

That low ESPN ranking could be a real problem in the BCS rankings for NFL teams later this season :)

Power rankings are yet another device to drive page hits – the only sport where perception is as important as on the field performance is when the best teams do not get the opportunity to decide the championship through playoffs – since the Falcons are not a major college football team pre-season rankings are irrelevant

FWIW Don Banks of SI.com rates the Falcons 9th, which makes Mr. Bradley the outlier when it comes to current expectations

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/don_banks/07/27/precamp.1/index.html?eref=sihp

Maybe the Falcons should do something like actually win the division or a playoff gamne before the local media continues to swoon over Matty Ice and the Birds not getting sufficient respect

kerryb

July 27th, 2010
1:10 pm

They put the two teams in the Super Bowl at the top. I believe the Falcons are every bit as good as the Saints. Both of those games last year were close and could have gone either way. The Falcons should have beaten them in the second game with backups. Media loves Bret Favre and the Cowboys. Northeast media loves the Jets. Ravens good blue collar team that I think are no better than the Falcons. I don’t see anything special about the Packers. I think the Falcons are 3 behind Colts, and maybe Dallas. If Favre does’nt come back the Vikings are average without a QB.

Bruce Mac

July 27th, 2010
1:10 pm

Say it ain’t so, are you going to give us eight reasons the Falcons win their division also. So now that you have jinxed two of our teams, what’s next?!!!!

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
1:11 pm

Did Dan just call me an out-and-out liar?

(Oh, sorry. An “outlier.”)

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
1:14 pm

Thanks, Chris. And, since you asked, I don’t bet. I’d be broke otherwise.

Wildebeast

July 27th, 2010
1:14 pm

Where can I get one of those cool hats like Mike Smith wears??

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
1:15 pm

At Smitty’s Hat Kiosk, Wildebeast.

Coming soon to a Home Depot near you.

Baloney

July 27th, 2010
1:19 pm

How soon after the season starts will people start wanting to know why Gilbert Renfroe isn’t starting? Or D.J. Shockley, or why we didn’t trade for Jason Campbell? Just wondering.

Dan

July 27th, 2010
1:22 pm

No intent to call out anyone on matters of opinion such as NFL pre-season rankings – I only diss Mr. Bradley personally during college basketball season when reasons for the appeal of the Duke Blue Devils continue to be a source of mystery to Mark :)

Reality Check

July 27th, 2010
1:24 pm

Mark, the Falcons do have a couple of Defensive Additions coming back, but this team was a mediocre 9-7 last year. The QB play was not great even before Michael Turners injury and the Defense was iffy at times. At least the Saints have one side of the ball on offense where you say they are head and shoulders above most of the NFL. The Falcons appear to be just around average or better on both sides of the ball. Do you see significant improvement in the passsing game, defense or both that would lead to 12-4 type record?

Just a thought, maybe the chemistry thing would be worth more this year.

kerryb

July 27th, 2010
1:27 pm

Reality Check, I think a 9-7 record against the 4th toughest schedule in the league while missing 1 or 2 of your main starters for a lot of the season is not mediocre.

Sgt. Pepper

July 27th, 2010
1:28 pm

I say we lose to the Packers but still win the division then play them again (and win) for the NFC. Then we play the Vikings in the Super Bowl where Farve has a great game, but Matt Ryan leads a last minute drive to win the game. Farve retires as being beaten by his first team, but goes out on a high note.

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
1:33 pm

I see improvement on offense and defense, Reality Check.

Wildebeast

July 27th, 2010
1:35 pm

That was a very pithy response, Mark!

Mark Bradley

July 27th, 2010
1:39 pm

I laughed, Wildebeast. Fair play to you.

Sanity

July 27th, 2010
1:40 pm

Mark,

Can you really not see why people would like Carolina, or is it just a Falcons hate division rival Panthers sort of thing? The reason people like them is how they finished last year under Matt Moore.

Coop

July 27th, 2010
1:41 pm

Mark – Falcons win 12 or 13, play Dallas in NFC Chamionship and win. Then play the SB in Dallas while the ‘Boyz sit at home and watch. Sweet justice for a lifelong fan now living in Texas. Suck on it Keith Brooking.

skyrock714

July 27th, 2010
1:42 pm

Look at the schedule for this year, The Falcons only play a couple of so called elite QB’s. Most of the road games are against weaker teams in my opinion. Strength of schedule does make a difference. I think the Falcons toughest games will be against the Saints & Ravens. We will all find out soon enough. GO FALCONS!!

Glory Glory

July 27th, 2010
1:42 pm

NFL in the South?????

WHO CARES!?!?!?

Where I come from, football is played on Saturdays and Sundays are for talkin’ smack about the footballplayed on Saturdays.

Leave the NFL to those Yankee-folk!!!

Coop

July 27th, 2010
1:43 pm

As for the rankings, I can see it at this point. Agree will finish better, but based on what we’ve shown and the additions we’ve made, I see us behind the top 7 teams.

ormewood

July 27th, 2010
1:46 pm

All seven of the teams ahead of the Falcons in this particular power poll have accomplished far more than the Falcons. They’ve won divisions, playoff games, or more in the last two years. The Falcons haven’t done any of that stuff. I think being picked around eight or so is pretty good in my book, at least until the games start.

Wildebeast

July 27th, 2010
1:48 pm

It would be cool to organize about 100 guys to wear Coach’s black jeans, black tee-shirt and khaki pith helmet to the home opener. Walk around Falcons Landing carrying a clipboard and whistle. Except the pith helmets would probably turn into Frisbees after half-time and a couple zillion beers. We don’t want Disco Night at Comiskee Park to break out!