It has been a summer of relative optimism for the Falcons. Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder have looked good, the team’s offseason additions have been positive ones thus far, and there’s a general sense that this is a franchise headed in the right direction. Shortly before the rubber meets the road and the Falcons face off against the Saints in Week 1, we received a rude reminder that the optimism is largely contained to this franchise and this fanbase.
The Athletic polled five NFL executives to see how they would rank the NFC teams, 1-16. Four of those executives ranked them 16th in the conference, and one ranked them 15th. It would be unfair to suggest that’s a universally held opinion in the league, but this matches the common national media view that the Falcons are set to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, if not the worst.
Here’s the writeup for the Falcons from that The Athletic piece.
No shock here. The Falcons are rebuilding and everyone knows it. Is there any way they can surprise?
“No, I just don’t think they have anything,” one of the voters said. “They have one of the worst-pass-rushing teams in the league. Couple that with their quarterback situation in combination with the offensive line and it’s tough.”
Arthur Smith has been forceful about how he feels about expectations for the Falcons, talking about a “graveyard of hot takes” and “predictions that are just comical” out there for this team. He’s likely reacting to any number of articles and season predictions out there, from USA Today’s 2-15 to the many articles here, there, and everywhere talking about this being a rebuilding football team with a hard ceiling. He’s likely also well aware that this perception exists not just in the media but within the league the Falcons are competing in, which likely only adds fuel to the fire.
Me? I’ve been consistent with my feelings about this team, which is essentially that they are a better overall squad than last year but could very well lose more games, owing to the difficulty of the schedule, the still-present weaknesses, and the team’s still-outsized reliance on a handful of stars to drive success. I’m finally optimistic about the long-term direction of the franchise and have high hopes for a big playoff push in 2023, but this will be a tough year. That said, do I think this is the worst team in football, or even the NFC? Nah.
Regardless of how any of us feel, the Falcons have had low expectations thrown in their face all year long. It’ll be up to them to prove all that talk about them being one of the worst teams in the league is a bunch of hokum, and they can start doing so in a little over a week.