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Playoff Sleeper? ESPN Likes Atlanta Falcons

It’s taken most of the spring and summer for the national media to get over the fact that the Atlanta Falcons weren’t going to chase quarterback Lamar Jackson in vain.

But now that they have gotten over it, they’re starting to realize the Falcons made significant moves during the offseason. The Falcons spent on ton on free agency on defense. They have one of the top offensive line and set of skill position players in the NFL.

Yes, Desmond Ridder is unproven, but that doesn’t mean he’s automatically a failure and the rest of the team folds around him.

Someone over at the World Wide Leader is taking notice.

Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler each picked a sleeper team to make the playoffs in a recent ESPN+ article.

They both picked the Atlanta Falcons.

“I got the Atlanta Falcons,” wrote Graziano on ESPN+. “I think the Saints are the favorites to win the NFC South, but (a) that’s no guarantee, and (b) the division’s team schedules look soft enough on paper that it’s possible it sends more than one team to the playoffs.”

“It’s about time for the high-end draft picks the Falcons have been making on offense to click. And while a lot of this depends on quarterback Desmond Ridder being as good as Atlanta seems to believe he is, there is a fair bit of offensive talent on that roster around him. If nothing else, the Falcons should be fun to watch.”

The Falcons finished the season as the No. 15 scoring offense in the NFL last year with Marcus Mariota starting 13 games. Adding Bijan Robinson and a second-round pick to the offensive line is going to make this offense worse?

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Fowler agrees.

“Good call, Dan,” wrote Fowler. “Coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot aggressively improved the roster through free agency and the trade market, and the NFC South is open to just about anybody.”

The Atlanta Falcons did improve the roster. Significantly. Arthur Smith and the Falcons overachieved with seven wins the last two years. Can Smith now guide this team with significantly higher expectations and more proven NFL players?

Fowler, Graziano, and a significant portion of Falcons fans think so. We get our first look on Sunday at 1 p.m. as the Carolina Panthers visit Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Falcons are a 3.5-point favorite.

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.