FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – ESPN released its Football Power Index projections for the 2018 NFL season, and the Falcons were among the upper echelon of teams.
Atlanta claimed the No. 8 spot in ESPN's FPI ranking, joining New Orleans (No. 6) and Carolina (No. 9) as the three NFC South teams to land inside of the top 10. The NFC South was the only division with three teams in the top 10 of the ranking.
The Falcons' FPI rating entering the season is 2.7, which is .9 points behind the Saints and .5 points ahead of the Panthers. The Patriots sit atop ESPN's FPI ranking with a 5.0.
So, what exactly is the FPI? You can read an in-depth explanation of the process in determining FPI – here – but this is a brief excerpt of what goes into it:
"At its core, NFL FPI is a prediction system for the NFL. Each team's FPI rating is composed of a predicted offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency, as measured by expected points added per play, and that rating is the basis for FPI's game-level and season-level projections.
"In the preseason, FPI uses a number of predictive factors to project future team strength. The main component of preseason FPI is Vegas expectations; the expected win totals and money lines for each team are an accurate representation of predicted team strength and provide a strong baseline for teams entering the season.
"Other information included in the preseason ratings include: previous years' efficiencies for each unit, number of returning starters (on offense and defense), coaching/coordinator/quarterback changes and quarterback injuries.
"After combining all of these factors, a preseason FPI rating is determined for each team, which represents the points above or below average a team is expected to be in the coming season. Preseason FPI will serve as the basis of the early-season predictions but will diminish in effect as the season progresses and we learn more about the actual strength of each team."
ESPN also provides projections for the upcoming season based on their FPI. The Falcons are expected to compile nine wins in 2018, and they have a 51-percent chance to reach the postseason, a 32-percent chance to win the NFC South, an eight-percent chance to reach the Super Bowl and a four-percent chance to win the Super Bowl, according to the FPI projections.
Atlanta's overall FPI rating may be 2.7, but FPI also provides ratings for each individual aspect of the game – offense, defense and special teams. On offense, the Falcons have a rating of 3.7, which is the fourth-best among all NFL teams. Interestingly, the Falcons' defense has a rating of -1.4, which is 27th in the league. Despite finishing as a top-10 unit in both scoring and total defense, ESPN's FPI doesn't appear to hold the Falcons' defense in very high regard. On special teams, the Falcons have a .4 rating, which is the second-best mark.