A strange thing happened after the Atlanta Falcons fell to the New Orleans Saints 27-26 to start off the 2022-23 NFL season: the Falcons actually rose in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings despite the embarrassing loss.
New Orleans was one of the biggest risers despite their close win against the lowest ranked team in the previous rankings.
Coming into the season, ESPN had Atlanta ranked as the 32nd best team due to the underwhelming offseason where Atlanta lost many key players including leading wide receiver Russell Gage and the NFL’s leading tackler Foye Oluokun in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively.
Atlanta, through the first-three quarters, looked like a bottom of the league team. But as we all know, the Falcons choked away another double-digit lead and lost to their division rival.
However, ESPN rewarded the Falcons in their latest power rankings. The Falcons went from the 32nd ranked team to the 29th ranked team, jumping three spots despite the loss.
ESPN writer Michael Rothstein praised rookie WR Drake London stating “he could slide into an NFL lineup with ease, he showed a willingness to run block and was a good overall fit”.
Rothstein also praised Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees‘ ”willingness to send rushers from any level of the defense.”
Both of these being the main reasons Atlanta saw a jump in the power rankings despite the embarrassing 4th-quarter collapse.
The most interesting part of ESPN’s newest power rankings was the substantial rise of the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints started the season as the number 20 ranked team, due to the uncertainty of how the offense would perform and the changes to the coaching staff.
Throughout the first-three quarters, the Saints looked dull. They couldn’t get anything going; they couldn’t get stops. It seemed like they were going to start the Dennis Allen era off on the wrong foot. But they sparked a 4th-quarter comeback to win the game.
Coming off the impressive comeback victory, ESPN ranked the Saints as the 13th best team in the NFL, jumping up seven spots from their previous ranking.
It seems as if ESPN disregarded the first three quarters of the game and only ranked the Saints off
of their 4th quarter performance.
This upcoming week, the Falcons will travel to SoFi Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl Champions Los Angeles Rams at 4:05 pm EST.
The Rams, coming off an embarrassing loss to the No. 1 ranked Buffalo Bills, are ranked 5th in ESPN’s newest rankings and will look to rebound against the 29th ranked Atlanta Falcons.
The backfield of Marcus Mariota and Cordarrelle Patterson showed they can present matchup issues for any defense. Drake London and Kyle Pitts give Arthur Smith’s offense a vertical dynamic suggesting the Falcons could make some noise against the Rams.