The Atlanta Falcons have a bright present and a bright future. ESPN agrees, and they’ve ranked the team very highly in their new three year power rankings, which take into account both a team’s current prognosis and their future prospects.
Check out the article if you have ESPN Insider, but we’ve helpfully included the ranking and explanation right here.
Why they're here: Take your pick for Atlanta: The offensive nucleus consists of -- among others -- Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder, who are all under contract for the next three years. And on defense, that group includes Desmond Trufant, Deion Jones, Vic Beasley Jr. and Keanu Neal. This roster is loaded, top to bottom, with contributors at key positions who are still in their primes. The Falcons' success last season was no fluke and not bound to fade anytime soon. -- Field Yates
Biggest worry: Coaching-staff turnover, particularly at the coordinator positions, is what would be keeping me up at night, given how everything else is in place for this team to be a Super Bowl contender for the next three seasons. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel has never been a coordinator before at any level of football, and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is taking over an offense that had developed a one-of-a-kind chemistry between playcaller (Kyle Shanahan) and QB over the past two seasons. That will not be easily duplicated. -- Louis Riddick
What could change for the better: The Falcons ranked among the top seven in every category. As Louis mentioned, the coaching situation appears most vulnerable following widespread staff turnover this offseason, but if Sarkisian grows into a strong NFL offensive coordinator, Atlanta could swiftly solve one of their biggest looming questions following Shanahan's departure to the 49ers. -- Mike Sando
The two teams ahead of Atlanta in these rankings are New England and Seattle, which are both defensible but interesting choices. The Patriots have one of the oldest quarterbacks in the entire NFL, so while their roster is incredibly strong and they have the best coach in the league, their three year outlook is in a bit of flux. If Brady keeps going, they obviously deserve to be ranked as the best team in the NFL, unfortunately.
The Seahawks have the defensive pieces and franchise quarterback necessary to keep them in contention for three years, but they have genuine questions along the offensive line, a plethora of options but few elite ones at other offensive skill positions, and a defensive core that’s getting up there a bit. They’ve done a nice job of infusing youth on both sides of the ball, but they could hit a lull in that three year period as they steer through growing pains.
These are quibbles, though. All three of these teams should be great for at least two out of the next three seasons, and the Falcons will just have to out-perform that #3 ranking.