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Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Power Rankings: No. 26 Atlanta Falcons

By Vaughn McClure

A weekly examination of the Falcons' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 4 | Last Week: 27 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Atlanta Falcons finished the season at 4-12 and at No. 26 in the ESPN.com Power Rankings.

Such a drop off was far from expected for a team that went 13-3 a year ago and made it to the NFC Championship Game. But injuries and poor play along the offensive and defensive lines caught up to the Falcons in the end.

If anything else, the dismal season emphasized the need for the Falcons to upgrade this offseason with tougher offensive linemen and more dominant pass-rushers. Both general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith admitted their team has been dominated at the line of scrimmage.

Smith refused to use injuries as an excuse, but no one can deny how much of an impact it had on the Falcons. Losing top receiver Julio Jones to a season-ending foot injury significantly changed the offense.

Matt Ryan didn’t play like a $100 million quarterback, but he was on his back for most of the season. Getting Jones back and getting better protection should help Ryan guide the Falcons back into the playoff conversation in 2014.