Mark Bradley

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

Grantland: The Falcons are Super Bowl contenders

Julio's back. That helps. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As we know, offseason appraisals of the Atlanta Falcons have run from lukewarm (Football Outsiders projected them to be better but not quite good ) to lousy (Pro Football Focus assessed theirs as the NFL's 30th-best roster ). Here's one, from Bill Barnwell of Grantland, that's wildly -- wildly, I say -- encouraging.

Barnwell lists the Falcons as one of the eight teams that can win it all . His reasoning:

I just think it’s shortsighted to write off a team that was so good for so long after one bad year. I can’t really prove that, because there just aren’t many historical comparables for the Falcons. I tried looking back at teams since the merger that averaged 11 or more wins per season over a four-year stretch before finishing with six wins or fewer during the next season. That fits the Falcons, who won 45 games (11.3 per year) from 2009 to 2012 before going 4-12 in 2013.

There are only nine other teams in that bucket since the merger. They averaged 8.9 wins in the season after their sudden collapse, and five of the nine won 10 games or more. It’s too small of a sample to prove anything, but it is fair to say teams have been on this roller coaster ride before and come out of it smiling. My suspicion is that the Falcons are one of those teams.

That's kind of line with my thinking. I don't believe the Falcons were as bad as they looked in 2013. (Although they did look pretty bad.) They had a bad schedule, a slew of injuries and not much luck. I believe they've gotten better via their offseason acquisitions. But mostly I believe those five consecutive winning seasons weren't a figment of Arthur Blank's imagination.

Which is why I've picked them to go 10-6 . ( So has Barnwell , FYI.) Which is why I believe they'll beat the Saints on Sunday.

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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.