Mike Smith and the Falcons are starting to be respected among the national media. (source: YardBarker)

Falcons are 7th in New Power Rankings


In the latest early summer NFL rankings, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News tries his hand at predicting how the teams will finish eight months in advance. There’s a potential Cowboys bias here, but the rankings are interesting nonetheless.

The Atlanta Falcons get shown a lot of love with a #7 overall ranking. This is becoming a theme as the season draws near and Gosselin elaborates:

The Falcons return all 22 starters from a 9-7 team, and young QB Matt Ryan has another year under his belt. A healthy RB Michael Turner will energize the NFL’s 16th-ranked offense; he missed five games because of injury last season. Coach Mike Smith addressed the NFL’s 21st-ranked defense by signing CB Dunta Robinson in free agency and using his first two draft picks on that side of the ball (OLB Sean Weatherspoon, DT Corey Peters).

Only the Cowboys (#2), Packers (#4) and Vikings (#6) are rated higher among NFC teams.

That means that Gosselin is the second person (so far) to predict the Falcons will win the NFC South. The Saints (#8), Panthers (#19) and Buccaneers (#30) round out the rest of the division.

Hit the jump for more Falcons goodness.

Further analysis shows Gosselin believes the Falcons and the Ravens will be the most improved teams from 2009. They both moved up eight spots from his final rankings last season.

The Cardinals took the biggest fall, down 11 spots, thanks in large part to Kurt Warner’s retirement and the offseason defections of Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle.

The AFC South is Gosselin’s choice as the best division in football, as was the case with his last ranking. On the flip side, the NFC West comes in as the worst division – keeping its end of the year rank from 2009.

Which division improved the most from last season to this? The AFC East. Only the Patriots have a lower ranking (by one spot) than they did in December. The AFC West wins the prize as the division headed in the wrong direction. According to Gosselin, all four teams are worse than they were in 2009, with the Broncos the worst of the worst.

Using Gosselin’s rankings, the playoffs play out like this:



Wild Card Weekend


AFC
#3 Chargers over #6 Patriots

This would be their 3rd playoff meeting since 2007. The Patriots eliminated the Chargers twice before.

#5 Texans over #4 Jets

The Texans have never beaten the Jets (0-4) including a 24-7 loss last season.

NFC
#3 Falcons over #6 Saints

The Falcons are 1-7 against the Saints in their last eight meetings, but this playoff match would be the biggest game the Falcons have played since Super Bowl 33.

#5 Vikings over #4 49ers

A rematch of the Favre to Lewis game the Vikings won 27-24 last season.


Divisional Playoffs
AFC


#1 Colts over #5 Texans

Bad matchup for the Texans. The Colts have beaten them six in a row and are 15-1 lifetime.

#2 Ravens over #3 Chargers

The Ravens beat the Chargers in their only meeting last season in the game where Ray Lewis stuffed LaDainian Tomlinson Darren Sproles (Thanks to commenter Ed) on a 4th-and-2 play.

NFC
#1 Cowboys over #5 Vikings

The Cowboys exact revenge on the Vikings after getting embarrassed in last year’s playoffs.


#2 Packers over #3 Falcons

Two of the young guns of the NFL, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, square off in a game we’ll see Nov. 28th.


Championship Games
AFC


#1 Colts over #2 Ravens

The original Baltimore team has defeated the new Baltimore team eight straight times. This would be #9.

NFC
#1 Cowboys over #2 Packers

The Cowboys beat the Packers eight straight times from 1991-1996 but it’s been an even series in their last six games.


Super Bowl


#1 Colts over #1 Cowboys

These teams have not played each other since 2006 and the storylines would break ESPN.

This is a positive trend among prognosticators. The Falcons are going from a non-playoff team to a trendy pick as the season gets closer to kickoff.

I would not be surprised to see someone predict the Falcons in the Super Bowl. They have the tools in place to compete with the big boys in the NFC and it’s nice to see the national media coming around to this fact.

More from Blogging Dirty:

Peter King puts the Falcons on the Playoff Bubble

Las Vegas Knows How Many Games the Falcons Will Win

ESPN’s Offseason Power Rankings: Falcons Rank 10th

On Needs Alone Falcons are a Playoff Team

Related Links:


Jeff Schultz of the AJC flexes his journalist muscles and talks to Rick Gosselin about the piece.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Dallas Morning News NFL Power Rankings NFL Team Ratings

  • Ed

    Since you didn’t know Ray Lewis stopped Darren Sproles and not LaDainian Tomlinson, I can see where you would also get the Colts/Ravens play off game wrong also.

    • http://bloggingdirty.com/ Troy Heinzman

      Ed, my unabashed Ravens fan, it’s good to hear from you again. Thanks for the correction on the article, I made the change and even gave you credit. The Ravens have a good team but if they play the Colts….turn out the lights. The original Baltimore owns the new Baltimore.

  • Ed

    Troy,

    Are there any Falcons fans out there?

    • http://bloggingdirty.com/ Troy Heinzman

      Ed – I sure hope so….otherwise, what the hell am I doing? lol

  • Ed

    Troy,

    Did you see Fox’s top 100 list for 2010. They have Flacco at 47 and Ryan at 36, even though Flacco has won three play off games on the road his first two years. They have Ed Reed at around 30 and Troy P. at 14. I wonder if they used the same stats as Oboma used for his health care plan.

    • http://bloggingdirty.com/ Troy Heinzman

      Ed – I did see that list. It makes sense to me to have Ryan at 36 and Flacco at 47. Statistically both QBs are nearly identical. The reason everyone gives the nod to Flacco is what you mentioned – the three playoff wins. But looking at the data, the Baltimore defense was more responsibility for the Ravens wins than Flacco was. If you switched Ryan and Flacco, the results would have been the same. Flacco wouldn’t have been able to overcome the Falcon’s defensive weakness the same way Ryan hasn’t. It’s a great rivalry especially sense they are almost identical except for their supporting cast.

      As for Reed below Polamalu I have to agree with you there. I think Reed is a better player but the article does state the requirements for the list as 1. Which player would I rather have on my team? 2. Which player would make the most impact on my team? 3. Which player will be the best in 2010, specifically? So perhaps Polamalu was chosen because he is 3 years younger and still has his best year ahead of him.

      • Ed

        When you say one requirement is who will perform best in 2010, you know it will be Flacco over Ryan. Joe actually has receivers to throw to and doesn’t have to keep looking for Ray Rice out of the backfield. The defense will be better this year than last, also putting less pressure on Flacco. He can rely more on the running game and won’t be pressured to make throws into double coverage. You may not see 4000 yds from Flacco, but a healthy quarterback is a good quarterback.

        • http://bloggingdirty.com/ Troy Heinzman

          While I disagree with you on the QB comparison, one thing we can agree on, Ed, is the Thursday night game between the Falcons and the Ravens will be one to watch.

          • Ed

            At least they were fair with both teams. They each play home games at 1PM the Sunday before. Usually we would get a division leader on a Thursday who had a bye the week before. I think the game you really want to watch is the first Monday night game between the Ravens and Jets. This game will tell how well the Ravens offense has improved with new receivers and tight ends. And if the defense is more dominating with the addition of Cody and Kindle and the resurgence of a healthy and hungry Suggs. I just hope the team keeps Jared Gaither and he plays right tackle. Last year him and Oher in the regular season game kept Freeney and Mathers to no tackles or sacks. Are you going to the Ravens/Falcons game?

          • http://bloggingdirty.com/ Troy Heinzman

            Yeah, it’s a good call by the NFL to keep things fair. Especially because it’s the first game on Thursday night football on the NFL Network. The race for the playoffs or whatever they call it should start with a bang. I won’t be able to be at that game but you can bet I will be stapled in front of the TV like it was the Super Bowl. I’m am interested in that Jets-Ravens game if only to see if the Jets are for real or last year was a one-off.