The Midday Show with Rick and John is dedicating the month of June to Atlanta Falcons and NFL rankings and lists. We love rankings. You love rankings. They make all of us smarter. We all win!
I’ll start in this space with my top 10 offseason power rankings, which John and I will discuss on Wednesday at 12:20 in our NFL Bounce segment.
10. Green Bay Packers: I have the Packers ahead of the Minnesota Vikings for several reasons, but mainly the separation between Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins at quarteback. Cousins has the Romo gene. The Pack had a great draft, snagging coveted cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson and rebuilt their receiver corps with three guys I like: J’mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. New tight end Jimmy Graham is going to be Rodgers’ favorite red-zone target.
9. New Orleans Saints: You’re probably thinking they should be ranked higher. I disagree because the Saints had a lousy offseason. Cashing in all those assets to trade up for defensive end Marcus Davenport was the head-scratcher of the first round. They didn’t address their vacated TE position. Mark Ingram is suspended the first four games. Plus, Drew Brees’ arm strength is declining rapidly.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers: They lost to the Jaguars in the playoffs because of the Ryan Shazier injury and they failed to address his loss in the offseason. Because of that gaping hole, they are a good, not great team, despite having the best triplets in the NFL.
7. L.A. Chargers: Did you know the Bolts allowed the third fewest points in the league last year, behind only the Vikes and Jags?? Despite that fact, they spent their first four draft picks on defense, including defensive back Derwin James at No. 17 overall. Yes, they lost TE Hunter Henry to an ACL injury, but a healthy Mike Williams should balance out that buzzkill.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: If not for overly conservative play-calling in the second half of the AFC title game, the Jaguars would have been in the Super Bowl. They made their offensive line better by adding guard Andrew Norwell and they added to their already incredible defensive line with Tavon Bryant in the first round. Blake Bortles is the only thing keeping me from being more bullish on Jacksonville.
5. Houston Texans: If DeShaun Watson and JJ Watt are healthy, and that is the current expectation, the Texans will be dominant. Plus, they added playmaking DB Tyrann Matthieu to a loaded defense and made several smart draft picks, including third round safety Justin Reid and fourth round WR Keke Coutee.
4. L.A. Rams: Already nasty, the Rams went and had the best offseason in the league. Adding CBs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, as well
as upgrading from Sammy Watkins to Brandin Cooks. General manager Les Snead might win Executive of the Year.
3. Philadelphia Eagles: They are the defending champs and they are probably the most talented team at the line of scrimmage on both sides. Oh yeah, and they will welcome back last year’s MVP front-runner Carson Wentz from injury. All that said, the Falcons lost in the playoffs at Philly 15-10 because of their own mistakes in a mistake-filled season. That won’t happen to Atlanta again in 2018.
2. Atlanta Falcons: This is not a homer pick. I promise. The Falcons are the NFC’s best team. Yes, they lost Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn on the d-line. But with the additions of Deadrin Senat and Terrell McClain, combined with the promotion of Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley moving back to DE exclusively, the Birds are elite upfront. First-round steal Calvin Ridley gets the offense back to rock-star status. In terms of NFC competition: they beat the Rams in L.A., they own the Packers, they lost to Phily only because of Keanu Neal’s dropped interception, they match up well with the Saints and Panthers, and the Vikings are legendary choke artists. Bring it!
1. New England Patriots: It pains me to rank the Evil Empire No. 1, but they are a virtual lock to win the AFC for the 132nd straight season. The losses of WRs Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola were mitigated by adding Jordan Matthews and Braxton Berrios, plus Julian Edelman should be healthy. The loss of left tackle Nate Solder was fixed by adding Isiah Wynn and LaAdrian Waddle. I’m not picking them to win the Super Bowl, but they are the best bet to make it there.