I think we all more or less agree that Atlanta’s set to be a top ten team in the NFL this year. They’re loaded with talent, they’re not breaking in any new coordinators, and there are very few (if any) legitimate holes on the roster. I’m excited about them, and I think with good reason.
But the question, as always, is exactly where they’ll finish the year. ESPN has a guess, and they’ve got the Falcons as the eighth-best team in the NFL for 2018.
ESPN pulls this thing together by looking at projected Vegas win totals, returning starters, and 2017 performance. Predictably, that approach winds up favoring teams that performed well a year ago and/or are Vegas darlings, which explains how the 49ers found themselves in the top ten.
Unsurprisingly, two AFC titans and last year’s NFC Super Bowl champion are the top three teams on the list, with the Patriots, Eagles, and Steelers finishing one through three in that order. They’re followed by the all-in Rams, the re-loading Vikings, the Saints, the Packers, our Falcons, the Panthers, and the 49ers. In case you’re not counting, that’s eight NFC teams in the top ten here, which speaks pretty accurately to the imbalance of power between the two conferences at the moment.
That imbalance, by the way, is not particularly good for football. But we’ll talk about that more soon.
Back to the ranking: Atlanta’s placement here feels pretty fair, if we’re being honest. It would put them as the sixth (EDIT: math is hard) seed in the NFC, and after a year that saw the team put up multiple dud offensive performances and three ugly losses in an AFC East that has three of the bottom six teams in the NFL on this ranking. They have as much talent as any other team in the NFL, but they need to put it all together to dominate the NFL this year, and a little skepticism from the national media is probably warranted until we see them do it.
Make no mistake, though: The Falcons are a top ten team, and if they stay healthy and improve their 2017 areas of weakness, they have a legitimate shot at ending the year as the NFL’s best.