With the NFL offseason officially here, ESPN published their “way-too-early” power rankings. Avert your eyes, as their self-described power panel of “more than 80 writers, editors, and TV personalities” make some interesting picks.
First, let’s get the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints absolutely collapsed down the stretch. Drew Brees was washed and the early season favorites Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara looked ordinary. ESPN puts them at 3rd overall after noting Brees “faded a bit down the stretch.”
The man’s arm fell off. The entire offense was predicated on dump offs to Kamara and Michael “Catch Rate” Thomas. No wonder they couldn’t beat the pathetic Los Angeles Rams at home in the playoffs.
The Falcons come in all the way at 18. Vaughn McClure cites the team’s multiple injured Pro Bowl players returning to health.
These players are difference-makers on both sides of the ball, meaning the Falcons should be much better equipped to challenge the Saints in the NFC South -- that is, if they can add more toughness on both the offensive and defensive lines.
As a Falcons fan the offseason is where my unbridled optimism demands one of the top spots. Replacing Steve Sarkisian and getting Keanu Neal, Devonta Freeman, Ricardo Allen, and Deion Jones back at full health is certainly worth multiple wins. Yet the Falcons still come in around their 2018 7-9 record.
If the team ends up around the 18th best team in the league we will see a much busier offseason next year.
The Carolina Panthers come in at 19 where the reason for optimism is Cam Newton underwent shoulder surgery early in the offseason. I’m not kidding. Their bright spot is their oft-injured quarterback got a jump start on serious surgery.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as is typical, lays at the bottom of the NFC South at the 24th slot. Honestly that feels low for the stellar coaching staff they put together but Bruce Arians will still be stuck with Jameis Winston.
We will certainly see updated power rankings after free agency, the draft, then probably every 24 hours leading up to preseason. You just can’t stop power rankings despite how hard you try. I will expect the Falcons to bubble up the rankings if they make a few good player acquisitions.