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

#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.

#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

#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.

#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

#1 Colts over #2 Ravens

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

#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

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