A weekly examination of the Falcons' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 4 | Last Week: 30 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
It might not be the direction some fans want them to go, but Atlanta Falcons moved up two spots to No. 28 in the ESPN.com Power Rankings after Sunday’s 27-26 win over the imploding Washington Redskins.
Now at 4-10, the Falcons sit fifth overall in the NFL draft order. Another win could knock them out of the top five and possibility out of position to draft a player such as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
Head coach Mike Smith promised the team is not concerned about its draft status. But the Falcons no doubt realize the difference a player such as Clowney or Matthews could make, based on the team’s issues up front on both sides of the ball.
Realistically, the Falcons seem destined to finish the season 4-12. They face the No. 3 team in the Power Rankings when they travel to San Francisco for an ESPN "Monday Night Football" matchup with the 49ers. Then the Falcons conclude the season against the No. 4 team, the Carolina Panthers, who are battling for playoff positioning.
More than anything, the final two games give the Falcons' coaching staff a chance to get a longer look at the young players. Six rookies started the last game against the Redskins, and four of them played every snap.
Maybe the Falcons haven’t given up on the season in terms of effort, but they’ve certainly started the process of looking ahead to next year.