PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Atlanta Falcons


Prior to last year, it was fair to wonder if the Falcons were simply fantasy football Hall of Famers, guys who put up great numbers, but weren’t going to win in January.

But head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan broke through the playoff drought by beating the Seahawks, and were a play or two away from a Super Bowl appearance.

That was enough to talk tight end Tony Gonzalez back for one more shot, and with a few strategic offseason additions (though they weren’t able to make many), the Falcons should be in position to make a similar push.

Whether they can get to a Super Bowl will depend on how their defense holds, though they don’t have the pressure of having to be dominant.


The Falcons had a set of offensive skill position personnel to rival any in the league last season.

Then they got better.

By swapping out the old-and-slowing Michael Turner with the old-but-still-effective Steven Jackson, the Falcons upgraded their running game by a significant amount. Turner was a liability most times, still able to pop a 100-yard game occasionally, but no longer able to carry the burden of an offense. Jackson appears still able to do that, and could be a more versatile back, actually able to catch a pass.

Coupled with a smart quarterback in  Ryan, one of the best tight ends in NFL history in  Gonzalez and wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White (it’s no longer Roddy White and Julio Jones), the Falcons catch create matchup problems for most NFL defenses.

Jones is growing into one of the top downfield threats in the game, with the kind of size and speed to make him hard to cover without drawing a defense specifically geared to him.


On the other hand, most NFL offenses can create matchup problems for the Falcons defense.

They simply don’t have enough good players on that side of the ball to prevent other teams from moving the ball up and down the field.

They’re assuming Osi Umenyiora will replace the pass-rush they had in John Abraham. But that might be a dangerous assumption, and there isn’t another immediate provider of pressure among the parts on hand. They’re also breaking in rookies throughout the secondary, having jettisoned Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon can be an impact player, but they don’t have enough of those, and the defensive line is a bunch of guys.

They’re not very good stopping the run either, and considering half their division (and a few potential playoff foes) will make that a priority, it’s hard to feel too good about their chances of improving considering the limited additions this offseason.


It’s funny, for a team built around an explosive offense, to blow up 60 percent of its offensive line in one offseason.

But that’s what the Falcons did, with the retirement of center Todd McClure and cutting right tackle Tyson Clabo.

Peter Konz will slide to the middle to replace McClure, which is what he was drafted to do, and then a cast of characters will compete for the starting jobs at right guard and right tackle.

Garrett Reynolds will likely get the first crack at the guard job again, and Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes are competing at tackle.

Plus, this assumes they get the Sam Baker of the first few years and the salary push, and not the left tackle that was benched for ineffectiveness in 2011.

It’s a dicey proposition, but with where they were salary cap wise, they need some young players to make jobs their own.

Camp Battles.

It wasn’t that long ago the Falcons were three-deep with expensive corners, built to match up with the Saints.

Now, Asante Samuel is all have left, and they’re stacking kids up and hoping for the best.

They used their first two draft picks on Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, and both should play in the nickel package, with Trufant expected to start opposite Samuel. Robert McClain has played well at times and can be a good reserve, but they needed to add top-end talent to the position (really, to many positions on defense), and this was the area of urgency this year.

They’re going to give Akeem Dent a chance to play nickel, and he’d likely be an upgrade over the solid but exploited-by-tight ends Stephen Nicholas.

They also need some defensive linemen to emerge. Jonathan Babineaux and Kroy Biermann are solid utility linemen, who have served a lot of roles over the years. They have young players in Malliciah Goodman and Cliff Matthews who could win starting jobs, but that may say more about the guys in those jobs than Goodman and Matthews.


The Falcons are talented, smartly coached and well-quarterbacked.

That’s going to make them contenders automatically, and they broke through the ceiling of a playoff win last year, beating Seattle.

Their biggest problem is that they don’t match up well with the 49ers, and at some point, will have to get through them to reach the Super Bowl.

Otherwise, there aren’t many teams in the league that can slow them down.

Ryan’s about to get a giant contract, and he’ll deserve every nickel of it. He’s a smart, efficient passer and leader, who has brought in a sense of stability which they needed.

But as good as he is, his first task is to overcome his own defense.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is going to have to scheme his way past personnel problems, as they don’t have much up front to create pressure. They’re pushing all their chips to the middle of the table on Osi Umenyiora returning to his old form, because there’s no one else on the roster you could expect double-digit sacks from.

Otherwise, they’re simply counting on outscoring everyone.

Which remains a reasonable proposition, and the reason they have a chance to get to the Super Bowl.

58 responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 5: Atlanta Falcons

  1. Your rankings are funny.

    Actual rankings:
    1) San Francisco
    2) Green Bay
    3) Denver
    4) Atlanta
    5) Seattle

  2. “Asante Samuel is all have left, and they’re stacking kids up and hoping for the best.”

    This can only mean that Asante will be exposed for the non-tackling route jumper that he really is.

  3. I think they should be ranked higher, like around 2 or 3 but the analysis is more than fair. The D is a huge question mark.

    I think the Niners and Seahawks are ridiculously overrated this year and will come back to earth this season. Kaepernick, especially is in for a huge reality check, Wilson has a shot to be great. I could see the Rams or the Cards surprising either team and contending for the NFC West.

    Green Bay’s D isn’t really that great, and Denver is having some issues with their pass rushers.

  4. Hopefully my falcons (especially) the Defense let this franchise down especially tony gonzalez…. da hatred talk of matt ryan i get in to (some people i talk to dont even look at matt ryan as a Top #10 qb) dont kno the game of football & im tired of the “choke”talk i got faith in matt ryan i got faith in thomas dimitoff and i got faith in the young players coming in and i feel year by year we improve as a team and don’t count this year out……. Lets go Falcons #riseup

  5. It’s not longer Roddy White and Julio Jones? That hurts, Gantt. That hurts…

  6. 1) Green Bay
    2) Denver
    3) Baltimore
    4) San Francisco
    5) New England

    I really don’t see any team as a clear #1…
    many teams very strong, should make for some interesting games this season

  7. Actually I don’t think the D is a question mark. It’s an exclamation point, saying “We’re not even as good as we were last year!” They may think they can outscore everybody, but others in their division are going to be coming with guns blazing as well. If you want to know the play here, it’s taking the “Over” on every Falcons game.

  8. In just scanning the current PFT headlines, one would assume that Von Miller ranked the Falcons. You know, on drugs.

  9. Maybe because I’m an NFC South guy, but I have never been that impressed with the Falcons. This to me is a team that didn’t do anything to improve themselves, and all of the other teams in the division did and our division games are always dogfights anyway.

  10. PS, Steven Jackson is a huge upgrade over Michael Turner? and they lose solid vets on the O-line means-

    “The Falcons had a set of offensive skill position personnel to rival any in the league last season.
    Then they got better”

    Based on this guys articles about the NFC South, he must be an Atlanta homer.

  11. And yes, Tony Gonzales is old to the point where he is losing steps, all of his catches are that more amazing now because he has literally no separation. Just an observation, pretty impressive but also kind of a question mark.

  12. I can not wait to see the tears from all the trolls this season when the Falcons embarrass your team. Going to be a great season for Falcon fans.

    Games I’m looking forward too:

    5. Saints at their home

    4. Saints at Falcons home.

    3. Pats at Falcons home

    2. Seahawks at Falcons home

    1. Niners at their home. Last regular season game at their stadium. Going to be hilarious to see the Falcons give them a loss for that last game.

  13. I was really hoping the Seahawks would come in at 5 or lower…. That way not as much presure, not that I don’t think they can handle it.

  14. Falcants are always the preseason and regular season picks…lmao…they fail in playoffs…when it counts….joke of a franchise and fan base…Saints own you…facts are facts….who dat, we dat, you ain’t dat…

  15. hmmm Beat Denver in reg season, beat Sea in playoffs, and beat themselves vs the 9ers(before you go screaming about the niners defense remember that JJ torched them for 187 and 2 TD) and they IMPROVED on offense so they should hold the #2 spot at worst with giving San Fran their due.

  16. Ridiculous. 0 pts. scored in the last halves of the last game this team played in each of the last two years, a romo-like qb who melts at the first sign of adversity, a coach that p-p-p-panics in any stressful situation, a #1 receiver with a big mouth and alligator arms, a perennially overrated D backfield and pass rush and a Jerry Jones wannabe for an owner. They’re not even the best team in the NFC South. They’re built for the regular season and will always fail in the playoffs because their owner, gm and hc and qb are all average- at best.

  17. Jonathan Babineaux is way more than a utility lineman. He leads d tackles in tackles behind the line of scrimmage since 2005 . I don’t think trufant or Alford can be worse than Robinson in coverage. More concerning is the coverage by linebackers like Nicholas and getting pressure with the front four. Atlanta was 5th in the league in points allowed which is good considering the yards they gave up and the fact they only had 29 sacks

  18. Falcons fans, please just shut up, please. Big deal Julio went nuts and y’all were up 17 points at home and lost. Shoulda lost to Seattle too. Were up big in that game and almost choked that one away also. Big deal you beat Denver. Woopdee dooo. ATL will NOT win the South this year. Cause if Falcons fans had any knowledge (apparently not) y’all would know that the NFC South Champion has NEVER repeated.

  19. You guys let Grimes and Robinson get away. How in the heck are the Falcons gonna stop the aerial attack of the New Orleans Saints ??? Better yet, How are you guys gonna win a good old fashion shootout with Drew Brees ??? We’ve been winning shootouts for a long time now Atlanta. You guys are new to this. Atlanta Falcons = Paper Champions…….

  20. How are they gonna win a shootout with Drew Brees? Same way they did last year, pic him five times and send him home to watch the playoffs from his couch with the rest of the losers.

  21. “Atlanta Falcons = Paper Champions”? huh? How about New Orleans Saints = Playoff Couch Potatoes. You guys rested from taking off the playoffs last year?

  22. skippynj says:
    Jul 22, 2013 6:07 PM
    Ridiculous. 0 pts. scored in the last halves of the last game this team played in each of the last two years, a romo-like qb who melts at the first sign of adversity, a coach that p-p-p-panics in any stressful situation, a #1 receiver with a big mouth and alligator arms, a perennially overrated D backfield and pass rush and a Jerry Jones wannabe for an owner. They’re not even the best team in the NFC South. They’re built for the regular season and will always fail in the playoffs because their owner, gm and hc and qb are all average- at best.


    Really good argument, reminds me a lot of the Manning era Colt, loudmouth owner, overly conservation coaches, yes both Caldwell and Dungy say what you will. Manning is a step above Ryan in my eyes as he was able to break thru once, but remember he chokes at the biggest postseason moments 80-90% of the time. Biggest difference is Manning was the ONLY reason the colts had success, that team around him was horrible so him choking can be taken with a grain of salt because manning was the reason they were even there. The falcons have a good supporting cast for Ryan so blame can be placed upon he and the Coachs shoulders.
    The reason the saints are better is the coach and qb. Payton regardless of bounty gate has NUTS where as smith is a game manager who prays for a comfortable lead so no hard decisions need to be made.

  23. I believe they are arguably 2nd best time in NFC. Green Bay and Atlanta both are really talented and I give edge to atl cause of the overall team and those nasty wrs. Niners are clearly the best in NFC. It’s hard to see they got Seattle ahead of Atlanta who knocked out Seattle. Matty ice is elite and julio is one of the best young wrs in the game. Atlanta biggest question is there secondary.

  24. I’m sorry but the Falcons are a joke, they squeaked out 6 or 7 wins last year against garbage teams by 7 points or less and then they had one of the easiest schedules in the league. On top of that, my Saints with all odds stacked against them still pulled out a victory on these losers.

  25. Seenoland54, You are further cementing my point that Falcons fans are dumb, stupid, idiots that know absolutely nothing about football. You ask about my question on how you guys are gonna win a shootout, and then you bring up your victory against us last season off a short week in an ugly 23-13 win. Let me inform you that, that is not a shootout victory idiot.

  26. And let me explain what the phrase “Paper Champions” means since your probably a 17 year old kid who just started watching football and jumped on ATL, bandwagon cause they had one good year. Here’s your explanation teenie bopper, Paper Champion means that you have all the talent in the world when somebody is reading the roster but don’t have the heart or determination to win big games.

  27. I’m not a Falcons fan but I will argue their Offense can handle the 49ers defense. If you remember in the championship game, Ryan was barely breathed on, and they put up a good amount of points. Their D is suspect, you can run on them all day, but if you have to pass they will create turnovers. Jackson was a great addition. ATL not only has to worry about SF but Seattle as well, your probably gonna have to go through one of them if not both..Home field has got to be a priority for them otherwise that’s a tall order if they have to travel to either in the playoffs.

  28. It doesn’t matter if they have home field or not. Their a soft team period. They had homfield a few years ago and got trounced by Green Bay and they had homefield last year and had a horseshoe up their behind against Seattle and got beat by San Fran cause 49ers imposed their will on ATL.

  29. Their Defense is gonna be horrible with the losses os Abraham, Grimes, and Robinson. Big deal they signed Osi, he’s only a situational pass rusher at this point of his career. He was 4th on the Giants DE depth chart. They should’ve kept Abraham, way better player than Umenyiora. And their probably gonna start the rookie CB too. That poor kid is gonna get picked on and abused by Brees, Rogers, Brady.

  30. You ignoring your own Defense woes again? And that offense has lost its share of players. Spin it any way you like the fact is, the Birds went to the playoffs and the Saints stayed home. Nuff said.

    By the way, 37 year season ticket holder so I’ve been watching the birds probably since before you were born genius.

  31. See I know my squad has a horrible D, I’m not delusional. And you brag about the Falcons going to the playoffs, BIG DEAL, what have you guys won ??? I know the answer to that, absolutely ZIP. If you guys are so great how do you let a team without their head coach give you your 1st loss of the season ? And congratulations your 37 so that tells me you should probably have a vast amount of knowledge about your team but by reading some of your posts, I can tell your football intellect needs some work.

  32. I’ve read 2 of your posts, and all you talk about is ATL made the playoffs and Saints didn’t. Your not blowing anybody’s skirt up with any smart knowledge. The casual football fan knows ATL made it and Saints didn’t. C’mon man you didn’t even know what the definition of “Paper Champions” was. Even the casual NFL fan probably knows that.

  33. You are obviously a new comer. Coming with being at every game for 37 years is a long perspective of these two teams, yours is a very short perspective. Both of these teams were in the NFC West which was grossly dominated by the 49’s and Rams. Atlanta had the worst owners ever yet the Saints were always the red headed stepchild to them. Atlanta has always done a good job of breaking the hearts of Saints fans at just the right time…remember 20-17? Your daddy does, and that was the tone set with the two teams. As bad as Atlanta was all those years, they still took more division titles and playoff appearances. Atlanta and NO have both won the Conference once and the Saints won the Superbowl with theirs but, that has turned out to be a highly tainted win and black eye on an already sorry franchise.

    You have come along and looked at the Saints franchise for a brief window and think you have some juggernaut in your town but anyone following football for a longtime just chuckles at you guys. The Saints not making the playoffs isn’t a fluke in the total scheme of things, it’s the norm.

    So, when it comes to bandwagon hopping, you “new” fans are the definition. Bet your Daddy sits calm while watching the games while you puff out your chest. He remembers what it was like for these two teams for so long. One very good thing about the rivalry of these two teams that is greatly missed was how the fans would get together before the game and after and party and parade around the stadiums together. The busses would let out and the visitors were welcome and right at home joining each others tailgate parties. There wasn’t any nastiness at all, it was wonderful. Try that in Philly. Too bad you guys are getting a lot of the nastiness in you, must be from Yankees moving South because we never treated each other that way. Enjoy your rant and say hi to your dad, we miss him at the games in Atlanta.

  34. A newcomer to these boards, yes but not to message boards entirely. And please don’t try and bring up the NFC WEST like I don’t know what that is. I’ve been a fan of the New Orleans Saints since 1990-91 there pal. Definitely no bandwagon blood in my bones. In fact the first Saints game I ever watched was the Falcons vs Saints Wild Card game in which you guys won 27-20 in the Superdome. And let me tell you most people would’ve went ahead and rooted for the winner but not me. I’ll stick with my team. And do me a favor mature 37 year old, don’t mention my family members in a discussion between you and I. Don’t know my father that well but if you must know he was a Baltimore Colts fan. And it is nice to have a grand old time with fans of rivals after all one of my good friends growing up was a Falcons fan.

  35. That’s 58 year old genius. A little difficult to be 37 years old and have season tickets 37 years. When the Saints are in the playoffs and the Falcons out, we always root for the Saints. Stick with our division and conference right down the line. So if you know about the NFC West days thru today you’d know that Atlanta has won more division titles, made more playoff appearances and won more games against the Saints so when you’re forever behind and belittling a team you are just being that much more rough on yourself. As for “losing” a game last year to the Saints, it is FAR more common for teams in the same division to split their games in a season. If the Falcons are soft at 13-3, what does that make the Saints? 13-3 is NEVER a “soft” team, NEVER.

  36. Ryan a choker??? More comeback wins than ANY QB since he came into the league, about to break the record for fastest to 60 wins, took a team that was in TOTAL CHAOS in 2007 to 11-5 his rookie season(for that matter he has never had a losing season in the NFL). Ryan doesnt choke, the Falcons defense…….now thats another story and the demise of the Falcons last season along with a couple of bad breaks, but hey thats sports so you take the good breaks with the bad ones.
    There is absolutely no reason to think the Falcons fall on their asses this season, from a football point of view and not a homer’s view; like it or not, the road to the super bowl comes thru Atlanta again just like it has 4 of the last 5 seasons with the team defeating Atlanta in the playoffs going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

  37. And don’t talk about tainted wins cause we dominated the 2009 season. We were 13-3 and blew out about 8 of our opponents. And if there was that much evidence surrounding the whole Bountygate scandal, Goodell would’ve brought some hard evidence to court when he was against Vilma all those months but he didn’t and that’s why all of the players suspensions were uplifted. And again I can tell you are a naive fan cause that fact of the matter is that so many teams have had Bounty programs over the years. We were just the unlucky ones to have the punishment rain down on us. But oh well, it is was it is. We have a Super Bowl and the Falcant’s do NOT……..

  38. You say the same thing in every post. I get it, your a season ticket holder for 37 years, your probably some rich Georgia guy. I get it, your stuck in the NFC West days when the 49ers dominated everyone. Even the Los Angeles Rams were better than the Falcons and Saints. The Falcons have more division titles and playoff appearances. And your correct and my only defense to that is a weak one in that their an older franchise. We were established in 1967, Falcons were established when 1962 ??? Playoff berths and Division Titles don’t mean crap when you get knocked out of the tournament. The only thing that matters is that ATL is an older franchise than the Saints and we got a Super Bowl before you.

  39. If Division/conference titles didn’t mean anything then every team in every sport wouldn’t have those pennants hanging from their rafters or trophies in their cases. What parallel universe would you have to live in to believe that? I know the Saints front office and players wouldn’t agree with your statement.

  40. They really don’t mean anything. Do you actually believe a team goes into the season saying ” I hope we win the division title this year” ? Every team’s goal is to win the Super Bowl. Anything less is pretty much a disappointment. That’s why they came up with the phrase. “There’s only one team at the end of the season that’s happy”.

  41. Stroll on back o the Saints section pup, you just sound sillier and sillier.

  42. I can sound as silly as u think but I keep it real and state facts buddy. And just because your a 58 year old rich guy that’s happy with a few division titles back in the day doesn’t by any account mean that I’m a pup

  43. They will be in a hole after week one. There is no way Sean Payton will allow the Saints to lose at home. That is the lock of the year game.

  44. I wouldn’t say it’s a lock. I mean I can remember many of times Atlanta beating us on a last second field goal. No game is a lock, especially not a division game. That game should come down to the wire like it always does in a typical Saints/Falcons game. Mental mistakes, turnovers, and key coaching decisions usually decide the outcome of a close competitive contest. But I hope your right.

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