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 …
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 Kuharsky — have the Falcons rated No. 9 or better. That’s something approaching a consensus, I’d say.