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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

Sporting News: Falcons third in division, 24th in NFL

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"One word of advice, men. Don't buy that Sporting News yearbook." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“One word of advice, men. Don’t buy that Sporting News yearbook.” (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As faithful readers — and perhaps some unfaithful ones — know, I’m a major fan of preseason predictions, and not just mine. (Especially not mine.) There was a year when Sporting News, which historically has produced first-rate annuals for all the big sports, didn’t publish a single one, and I was beyond consolation.

I’m happy to report that Sporting News is again back in the yearbook business, and it was with great delight that I bought its Pro Football edition over the weekend. (I also bought Phil Steele’s idiosyncratic college football annual, of which I’m also enamored and which has Georgia ranked No. 7 in the nation.) It does not, however, make me happy to report the following:

Sporting News ranks the Atlanta Falcons No. 3 in the four-team NFC South, behind New Orleans and Carolina, and No. 24 in the 32-team NFL, one spot ahead of Tampa Bay.

This comes on the heels of Pro Football Focus’ ranking of NFL starting lineups, which slotted the Falcons at a shocking — to me, and surely to Thomas Dimitroff — 30th. While there are some folks (I’m one), who believe that the Falcons are closer to the 13-3 team of 2012 than the 4-12 assemblage of 2013 and are therefore primed to rebound, other observers think that the Flowery Branch crew has fallen and won’t get up anytime soon.

Which is, as they say, why they play the games. I think the Falcons, with a little luck, can go 10-6 and grab a wild card. Sporting News believes otherwise.

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