Atlanta Falcons: Land No. 2 in latest ESPN Power Rankings

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Devonta Freeman
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Devonta Freeman /

ESPN released their latest NFL Power Rankings and the Atlanta Falcons are right near the top as they came in at No. 2 according to the sports media giant

Following a remarkable run in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons are getting a lot of attention heading into 2017. They’re now being recognized as a complete team with a powerful offense and a quickly improving defense under head coach Dan Quinn.

Despite losing the big game, the feeling around the league is that Atlanta is still an up-and-coming franchise with a window that’s barely beginning to open. That sentiment has been echoed by their standings in various NFL Power Rankings by different media outlets. One of the largest such outlets ranked them second overall recently as ESPN gave some love to the NFC South Champions.

"The Falcons’ offense is still as potent as it was last season, and a defense that relied heavily on rookies and finished 27th in points allowed in 2016 could see big improvements. A return to the Super Bowl isn’t out of the question, and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) trends that way as well, giving Atlanta the sixth-best odds of making the big game."

On offense the Dirty Birds return all their stars as 2016 NFL MVP quarterback Matt Ryan will have all his normal weapons like wide outs Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. Also returning is the man with the fresh new contract, Devonta Freeman as the running back was able to come to terms with the team on a monster deal.

Their only real question will be how the offense clicks with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The former USC head coach comes over following Kyle Shanahan’s departure to take on the job as head coach for the San Francisco 49ers.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: Can Freeman’s absence help Brian Hill recover?

Defensively they improved throughout the season and have since added rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley and defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Both should help the line get even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which in turn will help everyone on their defense as they aim to repeat as NFC champs in 2017.