Sep 15, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes a catch for a touchdown with coverage by St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21) in the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Power Rankings countdown: 26. Atlanta Falcons

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2014 NFL Power Rankings Countdown

26.  Atlanta Falcons (NFC South)

2013 Record:  4-12

Head coach:  Mike Smith - Smith has had winning seasons five out of the six seasons he’s been the Atlanta Falcons head coach, and he has consistently had the Falcons in contention in the NFC South nearly every year.  However, regardless of that fact he’s still on the hot seat after a horrific 2013 season, and he may be replaced if the Falcons suffer a second consecutive losing season.

Best offensive player:  Julio Jones, wide receiver - When Jones is healthy he’s one of the top two or three wide receivers in the league.  His size and speed combination makes it hard for opposing defenses to stop him.  But the only thing that might stop Jones is injuries.  As Jones missed eleven games last season due to a foot injury.

Best defensive player:  William Moore, strong safety - With the season ending injury to Sean Weatherspoon, Moore has to be considered as the best defender the Falcons have right now.  He had a sub par 2013 season after going to the pro bowl in 2012.  The Falcons lack of a pass rush may have had something to do with this, but Moore still has the ability to bounce back and have a big season for the Falcons.

Rising Star:  Paul Worrilow, inside linebacker - Worrilow was an undrafted free agent last season, and he impressed the Falcons in preseason.  He got his chance to show what he could do in the regular season when injuries hit the Falcons linebacking unit, and Worrilow ended up leading the team in tackles.  He still has some things to work on, but Paul Worrilow could end up becoming one of the Falcons top defenders.

Best new addition:  Jake Matthews, offensive tackle - One of the Falcons biggest weaknesses was on the offensive line, as quarterback Matt Ryan took a pounding for much of the season.  So the Falcons jumped at the chance to draft Matthews with the number six pick in the draft, and he should be a force there at tackle for many years to come.

Biggest offseason loss: Tony Gonzalez, tight end - Tony Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer and arguably the best tight end to ever play the game.  So the production he brought to the Falcons offense will not easily be replaced.  In fact you can’t really replace a player like Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons will just have to make up for his production from a combined effort of other players.

Biggest strength:  The Falcons biggest strength is wide receiver.  When they are healthy, the combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White might be the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.  But staying healthy is the key.  Harry Douglas is a good slot receiver, making the Falcons group an extremely formidable one.          NFL Power Rankings

Biggest weakness:  The Falcons biggest weakness is pass rushing.  The Falcons had problems rushing the pass last season, and they didn’t do a whole lot to try to improve that for 2014.  They drafted defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman, but he’s not known to be a great pass rusher.  They still have Osi Umenyiora, but not much else in the way of a dominant rusher.  so the Falcons will have to try to creatively manufacture sacks again this season.    2014 NFL Power Rankings Countdown

32. Houston Texans

31. Cleveland Browns

30.  Minnesota Vikings

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

28. Oakland Raiders

27.  Washington Redskins

26.  Atlanta Falcons

25.  Buffalo Bills

24.  Tennessee Titans

23.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers

22.  Detroit Lions

21.  Miami Dolphins

20.  St. Louis Rams


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  • Randall Roberts

    Maurice Barksdale needs a new job if he really thinks the falcons will be that bad again

    • Maurice Barksdale

      Just because the Falcons start at 26 doesn’t mean I’m saying they will finish there. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Falcons rebound and have a good season. However, I can’t ignore what happened last season. I’m a Redskins fan, and I have them ranked lower than the Falcons, and trust me I want to see them back in the playoffs this year. Thanks for the comment Randall.

      • Randall Roberts

        Maurice Barksdale thank you for the nice reply, and you can keep your day job, I do think the Falcons will do well.

        • Maurice Barksdale

          You never know. Maybe the Falcons and the Redskins will meet in the playoffs? Hopefully both teams will be successful this year.

  • Falcon Fan

    Falcons lost 11, count them, ELEVEN starters from day 1 during the season. I am not talking about 2nd stringers that got hurt, I mean 1st string players. NO TEAM in the NFL could endure that and have a winning season. Even with that, Atlanta lost 7 games by 7 points or less and Matt Ryan played great and kept them in the games. You can fully expect Atlanta to be back to form and hit the 10+ win group and push the Saints for the division. There is absolutely no basis for ANYONE to believe the Falcons to have that kind of injury riddled season again. 26th is a slap in the face and you should SERIOUSLY rethink your career.

    • Maurice Barksdale

      Injuries happen to all teams, and having the proper depth is all a part of winning. The Falcons front office led by Thomas Dimitroff is why the Falcons had a losing season last year, and he might be the reason it happens again. They still don’t have enough pass rushers, and the injury bug has already bitten the Falcons as they’ve lost their best linebacker Sean Weatherspoon for the season.

      However, just like I said to Randall Roberts below, where the Falcons start isn’t necessarily where they’ll finish. They could absolutely be back in the playoffs again, but there’s nothing to guarantee they will be. I like the passion you show for your team Falcon Fan. Thanks for the comment.

      • Falcon Fan

        Yes injuries happen all the time but rarely to the extent it happened to the Falcons in 2013 and when it does its ALWAYS catastrophic because no team is deep enough to lose 11 1st string starters. The final 9 games of the season the Falcons played with 8 rookies starting that were 2nd and 3rd stringers, find me a team in NFL history that was that depleted and didn’t have a disastrous season.

        Hopefully you have a better grasp of the 3-4 than your comment shows; the front 3 for Atlanta will demand attention and AT LEAST 1 double team opening up for the LBs to rush the passer as the 3-4 is designed to do. If you look at the defensive front 7 now, Nolan finally has the type of talent to properly run his defensive schemes and do their part; 3-4 doesnt require “superstar” pass rushers as most OLBs will be in the 4.6 range and the ones Atlanta now have fit the mold of all Nolan’s past LBs: 255lbs (ish), smart, aggressive and athletic. The back end is already a good unit: Trufant, Alford, and McClain are 3 quality CBs, the only question being who joins Moore at safety. The football fan in me (that being the non homer side :D ) can see the Falcons fielding a “high mid tier” defense, meaning in the 12-17 ranking. That combined with the off season moves on the Falcon’s Oline, a season of experience for the backups, and added DEPTH should give Ryan more time to find receivers and open lanes for the RBs. As for losing Spoon, Bartu and Warrilow are coming into season 2 in Nolan’s scheme and we all know big jumps occur in 2nd season for LBs; that being said, I do agree we have an EXTREMELY young LB core and that is the potential weak spot if the injury bug bits the Falcons again.

        The Falcons have been traditionally the most disrespected team in the NFL (I can say that because I have seen this for 40 years. ie: the “77 Falcons D only allowed 9.2ppg but never even gets a mention when talking about great defenses), but I still don’t see how you can say there are only 6 teams in the ENTIRE NFL that are worse than the Falcons going into the 2014 season.
        So, TO ME, a fair ranking for the Falcons should have been in the 14-20 range at worst due to the addition of alot of new faces that still have to gain a chemistry and a familiarity with each other. I put 14 on the high range due to the explosiveness of the Falcons offense when healthy.

        • Maurice Barksdale

          The Falcons do have some good depth on the defensive line. I’m curious to see how they will use rookie Ra’Shede Hageman. I think he’ll make a very good defensive end in the 3-4. And yes I do know about the 3-4, as the Redskins have been running it for four years now. But I’m not seeing the pass rushers at outside linebacker for the Falcons like you are.

          Osi Umenyiora should be OK there, but Kroy Biermann has never been a very good pass rusher. However, the 3-4 might be a much better it for him at outside linebacker than defensive end. Massaquoi is alright, but this is a spot where injuries could doom the Falcons. The cornerbacks aren’t bad, but if the pass rush isn’t there, then that will negate their effectiveness.

          The Falcons should be better in 2014, but I can’t discount what happened in 2013. They’ve signed some good free agents, but their draft picks over the years haven’t panned out, and they still need to prove they can run the football.

          I live in Atlanta, and the Falcons are my second team behind the Redskins, so trust me I want to see them win. And I’m impressed with your knowledge on the Falcons. Have you ever thought about being a sports writer?

          • Falcon Fan

            No one should discount the 2013 season as it absolutely did show a weakness the Falcons had. That depth problem was actually dealt with very well in the off season. Prior to the draft, Atlanta focused on acquiring depth and talent on both sides of the line allowing them to take only Matthews on the offensive line side for an instant upgrade and then letting Nolan go after the players that his eye is very attuned at getting: Strahan, John Abraham, Terrell Suggs, Patrick Willis, Elvis Dumervil, Cameron Wake are all LBs he has had a hand in shaping so when he gets what he wants good things happen. No doubt about it, 2014 was Mike Nolan’s draft with the exception of Matthews. He has what he wants now he needs to make them produce and slow down the opposition which is all thats really needed with the Falcons potent offense. Speaking of which, I think the biggest addition besides Matthews was Jon Asamoah followed closely by Devonta Freeman (watch out Sjax, this kid can play 3 downs). That right side for Atlanta will be a good one to run behind and Ryan wont have to many issues from them in pass protection. Freeman, in college, showed excellent blocking skills for a RB and reading disguised blitzes both of which are absolutes for RBs in todays NFL. I don’t expect the Falcons to have a top 10 defense, just one that gets enough stops to keep that potent offense on the field as thats the winning formula for Atlanta since 2008.

            As for the writing part, I have no clue how to go about that and containing my homerism could be a problem.

          • Maurice Barksdale

            I like Asamoah. I wanted the Redskins to sign him. But It will be interesting to see how the offseason signings and the draft will help the Falcons. Freeman should be an upgrade over Jason Snelling, and should take some carries away from Steven Jackson.
            If you want to give writing a try, maybe you could submit a test article to me. It doesn’t have to be about the Redskins for now, let me know if you’d like to try. I’m looking for more writers for Riggo’s Rag. So let me know if you want to give it a shot. You really have some great knowledge of the game.