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Falcons given playoff ceiling, basement floor for 2023 by ESPN

The ceiling is 11 wins, the floor is 5 for Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons v Miami Dolphins Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images

Is Atlanta’s ceiling stratospheric in 2023, in light of all their huge improvements? Has the floor been raised from subterranean to ground level thanks to progress, both from the roster and a more experienced coaching staff?

Those are questions we’re all asking ourselves about this team, in one way or another, though I think most of us are thinking (and daydreaming) more about the ceiling than the floor. ESPN inevitably weighed in on that question, and they gave Atlanta the highest ceiling in the division (11-6, shared with the Saints) and the second-lowest floor (5-12 and tied with the Panthers, just above the 4-13 Buccaneers). The piece is paywalled behind Insider, as a note.

Here was ESPN Falcons reporter Mike Rothstein’s blurb:

If the Falcons’ first-year coordinator is able to create a pass rush with Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and Bud Dupree (among others) surrounding defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, Atlanta could get its offense more possessions. In 2022, the Falcons ranked 26th in the league with a pass rush win rate of 35.3%. The aggressiveness could also help with creating turnovers, and the secondary has a lot of talent, including former first-round picks A.J. Terrell and Jeff Okudah at cornerback. — Michael Rothstein

The fact that the variance question concerns the defense is little surprise. As I wrote yesterday, this offense should be very good in 2023, leaving the defense’s strides as the larger lingering question. If the defense clicks and the offense is as good as anticipated, 11 wins might not even be the ceiling. I do think 10 or 11 wins will be where the Falcons end up, because things rarely go perfectly, but that’s a fine ceiling that may well win the NFC South outright.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree with the floor. It would take a heavy pile of injuries or frankly astonishing ineptitude to win only five games this year with one of the league’s most straightforward schedules and a much-improved roster. The Falcons won seven games in 2021, a year in which they had a credible case for the worst seven win team of all time, and did it again a year ago with plenty of holes on the roster. This is simply a better team than it was a year ago, and one that has a floor comfortably north of five wins barring a catastrophe.

We’ll see how this plays out, but I suspect that the Falcons will finally stop merely meeting modest expectations or falling short of lofty ones and deliver on their promise in 2023, because they’re surely improved enough to make some noise. Let’s see what that ceiling looks like.