ESPN released their first version of their power rankings today. The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers are first in the initial rankings and I certainly can't argue with that. The top five is rounded out by the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Pittsburgh Steelers in that order.
The team that had the best record in the NFC last season, the Atlanta Falcons, are placed sixth by ESPN. It is a welcome sign to the fans of the franchise as it has had way more downs than ups during its history. Is it the right place though?
I'll start off by saying that I can't complain about where we are. We went into the playoffs ranked second in the league behind the Patriots. We proved that we were going to be big time contenders for years to come as quarterback Matt Ryan led us time and time again to wins late in the fourth quarter.
I do, however, feel that we should be ranked in the top five to start the season. The Falcons won the NFC South last year and most previews that I've seen have them repeating as division champs. ESPN has the Saints, another NFC South team, ahead of them in their rankings.
When the two teams had two games between them last year, splitting the series. Amazingly, both teams won their games on the road in the series.
The Falcons had troubles getting to Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, as he was only sacked three times in the two games. That's not many times considering he threw 87 passes in the two games combined. He was able to frequently escape the pocket against the team and make some of those heroic plays that he is known for.
The Falcons brought in Ray Edwards to play opposite John Abraham, and are hoping that the duo will really be able to put some more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. Hopefully it gives the team better luck against the Saints.
Many people are also talking a lot about the Philadelphia Eagles. This is for good reason after all of their acquisitions this year. They are a very talented team, but they do have their own problems. Can Michael Vick repeat his success from last year or even stay healthy?
The Eagles hammered the Falcons last year to the tune of 31-17. Vick didn't start the game, and it was the second worst game the Falcons played all year. That's an excuse, as were drug up and down the field, it's just a point that we don't know how Vick will play against the Falcons quite yet. He certainly has the skills and weapons around him though.
The Steelers are the Steelers and I can't really argue that we should be ahead of them. The beat us last year despite not having Ben Roethlisberger and they have proven themselves time and time again in the playoffs.
Same goes with the Packers and Patriots. I would agree that as of right now, they are the two best teams in the NFL.
Overall, I thought ESPN did a good job with the rankings. Do I think the Falcons should be in the top five? Of course, because I am very confident in the team and coaching staff.
I also understand that we still have to prove that we can win the close games again. A win in the playoffs certainly wouldn't hurt either.
With guys like Ryan, Edwards, Abraham, Michael Turner, and Roddy White on the team though, the fans have a lot to "Rise Up" about.