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6 NFL executives rank Falcons 13th-best team in the NFC

After an offseason and with buzz around the team growing, it’s bracing to see this view from the league.

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Before the 2022 NFL season, The Athletic’s Mike Sando polled five NFL executives from a variety of roles and asked them to rank teams from both the AFC and the NFC. The Atlanta Falcons were ranked as the worst team in the NFC ahead of last year by those execs, one in a parade of awful predictions for the team that turned out to be entirely too dour. The Falcons tied for the 12th-best record in the conference a year ago.

After a productive offseason that has earned Atlanta some buzz as a contender, has the view in the league changed? Sando repeated this exercise for 2023 and talked to six executives this time, all of them anonymous, and the Falcons did indeed rise up the rankings.

It just wasn’t as much as you’d probably expect.

13. Atlanta Falcons

Votes: 8-14-14-14-11-11 | Avg: 12.00 | Median: 12.5

The criticisms for the team center on the uncertainty about what Desmond Ridder can be, with one executive also straight up saying that they don’t love the Falcons defense. Only one executive ranked this team in the top ten in the NFC, which you’ll recall represents just half the NFL, and fully half of those execs It’s a bit startling to me to see that a year after the Falcons handily beat the “worst team in the NFC” allegations and significantly upgraded the roster, there are still obviously a healthy number of people around the league who believe they’re bottom dwellers.

For comparison, the Saints are ranked 6th (?) and the Panthers are 12th, so only the Buccaneers (14th) rank lower from the NFC South. I tend to think the idea that this team is disrespected tends to be a bit overblown—they have had five straight losing seasons and have to prove they can stop doing that—but it’s legitimately baffling to me that a Saints team that stayed in neutral minus the change to Derek Carr is considered one of the NFC’s better squads, while a drastically improved Falcons team is in the basement.

The Falcons can’t do anything about this—or the idea that Desmond Ridder is no good, that the defense isn’t upgraded enough, that Kyle Pitts isn’t an elite tight end, or one of the hundred other notions around this team floating out there in the ether—except win. Fortunately, they have a chance to start proving anyone doubting their acumen and upside wrong this coming Sunday. Let’s hope they seize it.