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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
NFL Power Rankings: Falcons No. 2

By Pat Yasinskas

The ESPN.com end-of-season NFL Power Rankings are out and the Atlanta Falcons were a unanimous choice at No. 2.

The Denver Broncos were the unanimous No. 1 pick. Although otherwise meaningless, Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay could have cost the Falcons a shot at the No. 1 spot.

But I think the No. 2 ranking is just about right for the 13-3 Falcons. They had an impressive season overall. But the Broncos have been hot and they deserve to be in the No. 1 spot right now.

In a mild surprise, the Carolina Panthers finished the season as the NFC South’s second-highest-ranked team, which would have been unthinkable a month ago when the Panthers were among the league’s worst teams. But they’re No. 18 after winning their final four games.

Carolina finished one spot ahead of New Orleans. Like the Panthers, the Saints finished 7-9. They did a nice job overcoming an 0-4 start, but a horrible defense and a lot of off-field distractions prevented the Saints from ever really getting into the playoff race.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also finished 7-9 and ended their season with a victory against Atlanta. But they have the division’s lowest ranking (No. 21), which sounds about right because the Bucs lost five straight before the win against the Falcons.