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Atlanta Falcons Begin Season as 9th Ranked Team in NFL: Fan’s Take

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When the National Football League announced their first power rankings for the 2012-13 season, the Atlanta Falcons were listed as the ninth best team in the league. I think the last time there was this much optimism for a season in Atlanta was when Michael Vick energized the Georgia Dome. We all know how that turned out, but with Matt Ryan leading the way, the Falcons could be on their way to the Super Bowl.

Atlanta was the sixth team listed from the NFC, showing that the overall feeling around the league heading into the season is that this conference will be the premiere one. The Falcons were the second team listed from the NFC South, three spots behind the New Orleans Saints. The Carolina Panthers were the next NFC South team represented, coming in as the 23rd best team, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were right behind them in 25th place.

There are a couple of questions that need to be asked of their early season rankings. Do the Falcons deserve to be this high? Will their defense finally figure out how to shut down elite players? Will Ryan finally get the job done in the postseason?

I think the Falcons have every right to be ranked this high. They have one of the best offenses in the entire league. Every key position on offense is filled with quality players like Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner and of course Ryan. Their offensive line has looked good this preseason, which makes me think they have no serious holes on offense.

Their defense is filled with solid players that aren't known around the league, but with Mike Nolan coaching them now, they should be better equipped to make the big stops. For the past several seasons, their defense has killed them by allowing big plays on third down, but I don't see that happening as often this season as in years passed. Nolan is a defensive genius and should have this group of young players ready to shine.

The most important question is about Ryan and his ability to win the big game. If the Falcons reach the playoffs, which isn't a given because of how good the NFC is, he needs to get them a win. Vick went to Lambeau Field and beat the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre in the playoffs, but Ryan hasn't had the same luck in easier situations. I think Ryan is ready to become an elite star in the league and that chance to become one of the best will come in January when the playoffs begin. Until then, he needs to keep doing what he does every season, win games.

For a look at season recaps for the Atlanta Falcons, go here for easier access.

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Hobson Lopes is a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, thanks to Deion Sanders and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.

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