The Falcons have once again kept themselves alive in the playoff race with a gutsy win over Justin Fields and the Bears. Atlanta didn’t have a clean game — Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled in the red zone, and there were multiple special team blunders — but still came out on top. The team continues to teeter on the fence between a top draft pick and the postseason, a game under .500 with six left to play. This week’s NFL power rankings went as expected as the Falcons rise following the victory after tumbling down the rankings following their Thursday Night Football letdown.
18. Falcons (20 last week): “The expectations on Pitts might have been unfair to start the season. While he put up a 1,000-yard campaign as a rookie, the tight end essentially moved into a new offense with a new quarterback, Marcus Mariota. And he is being asked to do different things in a run-heavy offense, like block more — something he takes immense pride in. But the receiving production is not even close to a season ago, with 28 catches for 356 yards and two touchdowns. Pitts left Sunday’s game against the Bears with an MCL injury in his right knee and was placed on injured reserve on Monday, meaning he will be out at least four games.” — Michael Rothstein
19. Falcons (22 last week): “Kyle Pitts wasn’t being used correctly, but it’s still tough to see him go on injured reserve with a reported torn MCL, an injury that could end his season. Pitts is still very talented and hopefully he comes back healthy and puts together a much more productive season in 2023.”
18. Falcons (25 last week): “That’s when the Falcons signed Cordarrelle Patterson as an unrestricted free agent, a month after the start of the first league year with general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith in charge. Patterson has been the focal point of the Falcons’ point-scoring success since. A trivia question for die-hard Falcons fans: Of the 10 veterans signed or re-signed during the free-agency period before Atlanta added Patterson, who is the one still with the team? That would be safety Erik Harris, another special teams standout.
As for Patterson, his 103-yard kickoff return against the Bears helped turn the tide of their 27-24 win and set the NFL record for career kickoff return touchdowns. It also produced this touching vulnerability: “Honestly, I was trying to cry, but all the guys were running up on me. It felt good. I was trying to shed a tear, but they wouldn’t let me.”
18. Falcons (19 last week): “Falcons held onto 27-24 win against the Bears, but the CHI record keeps them from surpassing the Chargers.”
Like I’ve said, every week I’ve tracked these power rankings, the Falcons will bounce back and forth among the average teams of the league. Atlanta still has a chance at squeaking into the postseason but also could end up with a top-10 draft pick. It’s a place they were in last season, and with a less talented roster, Arthur Smith’s team is overachieving. Many people expected the Falcons to be one of the worst teams in the league, but impressive coaching has a bottom-tier roster performing like an average one.
Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire