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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