For a few years now, the Falcons haven’t exactly been one of the NFL’s most talked about teams. There have been moments here and there, from drafting Kyle Pitts to unspeakable kickoff follies to a couple of out-of-nowhere drubbings of good teams like the 49ers, but by and large they’ve been in the background.
That has been true even in their own division, where the Saints sucked up plenty of oxygen with Sean Payton and Drew Brees’ increasingly feeble attempts to maintain playoff relevance and Tom Brady landing in Tampa Bay. The reason is pretty simple: The Falcons didn’t win much, and increasingly they weren’t even the fun, high-octane offense of yesteryear. National types felt very comfortable dismissing the team’s chances or barely talking about Atlanta, because the Falcons were a losing football team without an immediate path to relevance.
One offseason can change a lot, and it has. Loaded up with respected and talented veterans after spending big for Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and others, flush with young talent after the draft brought in much-hyped running back Bijan Robinson and pundit favorites like Clark Phillips and Matthew Bergeron, and still boasting high-end talent like Pitts, Drake London, Grady Jarrett, and A.J. Terrell, the Falcons are finally getting some buzz.
They’ve got Brian Baldginer singing their praises:
"Atlanta is ready to bust out!" @BaldyNFL is ready for the #dirtybirds on Sundays pic.twitter.com/d1OV5DSWAY— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) May 18, 2023
They’ve got Peter King thinking big things, like winning the NFC South and proving they were snubbed for primetime games.
Hell, even CBS feels the Falcons are blessed:
May 15, 2023
And Pro Football Focus analyst (and card-carrying Buccaneers fan) Trevor Sikkema can’t even deny that the Falcons are doing something:
Even a "Bucs guy" like @TampaBayTre sees the #Falcons playoff potential in 2023.— Locked On Falcons (@lockedonfalcons) May 17, 2023
He breaks down to @falcfans why he likes the direction the team is headed in. pic.twitter.com/VdTTI3agxu
These are just a handful of outlets and analysts, but they’re hardly alone. The Falcons have had the kind of offseason that would earn notice, even if it’s being unevenly graded owing to questions of positional value and Desmond Ridder being the plan under center. When you throw in a fairly weak NFC outside of heavy hitters like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and maybe Dallas and Detroit and the fact that every team in the NFC South has significant flaws, it’s not all that surprising that folks are suddenly seeing a clear path to the playoffs for the Falcons.
This hype exists despite how crummy the Falcons have been in recent years and in spite of pass rush and quarterback questions that circle this team in almost every national conversation. If Desmond Ridder looks good this summer and the defenses shows that those investments are paying off, even in preseason, then I think it’s only going to grow. It’s hard to imagine the Saints, Panthers, and Buccaneers being looked at as favorites to win the division, even if Carolina obviously can start earning some shine of their own if their offense looks capable with Bryce Young under center. The reason the Falcons are being talked about now as a divisional winner is obvious: They look good on paper, and on paper is the only thing we can really talk about right now.
All that buzzing doesn’t amount to a hill of bees if the team doesn’t actually play well and win this year, but it’s a nice change of pace for our forgotten Falcons. As we get closer to the season and the team continues to look much-improved, as it’s fair to expect they will, that hype should only intensify.