The Atlanta Falcons have surprised nearly everyone in the NFL with their 3-3 start to the season, and they’re starting to get some respect from the national pundits.
ESPN started the Falcons 32nd in their preseason power rankings, gave them a small bump after a loss to the Saints in Week 1, and then quickly dropped them to last again after a competitive loss on the road to the LA Rams.
Atlanta is 3-1 since their loss in LA, and they’ve slowly made their way up ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings. They got their biggest bump of the year rising five spots to No. 19.
ESPN chose the “what we got wrong” theme this week after seeing six games.
The Falcons were supposed to be bad. Having a 3-3 record through six games with a clear plan is better than most could have expected. Contrary to my preseason thought, Atlanta has been able to run on any opponent it has faced with a multitude of backs, the league’s No. 3 rushing team. Its defense has been opportunistic and created pressure at key times. The cohesion of the entire roster, combined with a division void of a dominant team, should have Atlanta in the playoff conversation for many, many weeks to come. — Michael Rothstein, ESPN
The offensive line has been a revelation this year with only one new player joining the team, converted right tackle Eli Wilkinson coming in at left guard for Jalen Mayfield. Center Drew Dalman replaced Matt Hennessey; Dalman was a fourth-round pick in general manager Terry Fontenot’s first draft last season.
Kaleb McGary has taken a huge leap forward at right tackle. He’s a free agent after this season, because the Falcons rightly declined his fifth-year option following three years of subpar performances. But McGary is playing like a man who deserves to get paid… and he will.
NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus has been a little higher on the Falcons than ESPN this season. He moved Atlanta up four spots to No. 18 on his latest edition of his power rankings.
The Falcons showed in the early weeks of the season how they can be competitive with just about anyone. On Sunday, they displayed their potential when they put forth a complete effort. Marcus Mariota was nearly perfect, connecting on 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns (he added 50 yards on the ground), while Dean Pees’ defense scored on a fumble recovery and pitched a second-half shutout in a 28-14 win over the 49ers. The outcome represented a season high for points scored and a season low for points allowed by the Falcons, who are tied with the Bucs atop the NFC South through six weeks. In a wide-open NFC, anything is possible. — Dan Hanzus, NFL.com
While the Falcons are 3-1 in their last four games, not everyone is a believer in head coach Arthur Smith’s squad just yet. Vegas has the Falcons a 6-point underdog going against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Cincinnati sports an identical 3-3 record according to MyBookie.
Power rankings don’t win football games. Atlanta has pulled even with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the top of the NFC South and appear to be a legitimate threat to the Bucs division title hopes.