Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ESPN: The Falcons are No. 3 in NFL future power rankings


Being a pushover for any form of rankings – 10 best books over 700 pages; 10 best songs written in under 10 minutes – I’m happy to hail the arrival of ESPN Insider's annual NFL future power rankings, which are a considered attempt to handicap the next three years. These are subject to changing reality, and here I demonstrate how.

A year ago, ESPN’s futuristic panel had the Atlanta Falcons ranked third in the four-team NFC South.

This year, the panel has the Falcons ranked third – in the whole wide NFL.

Going back a bit further, we note that the ESPN electorate had the Falcons ranked 15th among NFL teams in the summer of 2014, and the point of these, as best I understand it, is to project the next three seasons. The Falcons went 6-10 and fired Mike Smith in 2014. They hired Dan Quinn and went 8-8 in 2015 after starting 6-1. Had the most recent Super Bowl lasted 59 minutes, they’d be reigning NFL champs.

Back in 2014, the panel had Matt Ryan ranked ninth among NFL quarterbacks. (To be fair, the Falcons were coming off their first losing season with the triumvirate of Ryan, Smith and Thomas Dimitroff.) Their front office was ranked 14th back then, their coaching 15th. The Falcons were ranked 15th overall.

Today: Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, ranks fifth among quarterbacks; the Falcons’ coaching is tied for seventh, and the front office is slotted fifth.

Which only goes to show … well, pretty much what we already knew. Win big and everybody looks good. Lose and the whole operation stinks to high heaven. Back in 2014, I wouldn’t have read these rankings and thought, “Super Bowl in three years.” Reading the latest set, you’d have to think the Falcons have a very good chance to be back soon. (Although Seattle is ranked No. 2.)

Then again, the panel’s No. 1 team is New England, and there’s a chance neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick will be around come 2019, which would surely mean the Patriots wouldn’t be No. 1 anymore. Such, as we also know, is life. Things can and do and will change.

(Oh, and the best book over 700 pages? My No. 1 would be "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton , which sounds dopey -- it's set in a New Zealand mining town in the 19th Century -- but is anything but. Best song written in under 10 minutes? Has to be "Pushin' Too Hard," by the Seeds, which was composed, if that's the word, by singer/front man Sky Saxon as he waited in the car for his girlfriend to finish grocery shopping.)

(Oh, and yes, that is Casey Kasem in this YouTube clip.)


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.