The Atlanta Falcons have done much to upgrade their roster in recent years, and I’ve said many times this offseason that it might be the most talented group of players I’ve ever seen this team field. Where does it put them against the rest of the NFL, though?
Per Pro Football Focus via ESPN Insider, it’s the second-best in football. The team they rank behind is, inevitably, the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
I don’t want to spend too much time quibbling with that ranking, both because the Eagles are that talented and because they just won it all last year. It is worth noting that the Falcons came mighty close to actually knocking off Philadelphia, and if it hadn’t been for some catastrophically lousy offensive play in that game, they may well have pushed their way to the Super Bowl again. Since the season ended, they’ve bled some talent along the defensive line (particularly Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe) but have held together a young, capable nucleus and added strong options from rookie Calvin Ridley to recent reserve defensive back signing Ron Parker. It’s a great team on paper with very few weaknesses, and it’s hard to argue against a top five ranking no matter how much you love or hate this team.
The question, of course, is what all that talent will translate into. We’ve seen growth for the defense each of the last couple of season, even if it has come in fits and starts, and the offense should be better with Steve Sarkisian and company no longer calling from a Fisher-Price playbook. That may or may not be enough to beat the Eagles (and whoever the AFC winds up sending to the Super Bowl), but it should be enough to keep them in the championship conversation all year long.