The Atlanta Falcons: be careful with that Kool-Aid

The 2015 Atlanta Falcons should have been a precautionary tale. They started the season 5-0 and Falcons fans were speaking about a Super Bowl run. They were yelling as the always do (and quite honestly, rightfully so) that no one loves the Falcons and they weren’t getting any national attention. They thought that this was finally the year.

Then what happened?

Many overlooked the near second half collapse on that opening Monday night against the Eagles. They ignored that it took a fourth quarter comeback to beat a pretty terrible Giants team. They five teams they started undefeated against would finish 2015 a combined 35-45, and that record was carried by the playoff bound 9-7 Redskins and Texans. Neither were playing well in the first half of the season, and both were considered the worst two teams in last year’s playoffs. The Falcons finished 3-8, and at times looked like they had no concept of the game of football.

Don’t drink the Kool Aid, Falcons fans. This 2016 team is grooving, this 2016 is getting comfortable with the offense, Kyle Shanahan is making in-game adjustments and executing excellent game plans. But there is a lot of football left.

This win against Denver was a big one, but let’s not forget who they are. Their defense is amazing, however they have a seriously flawed running game and not one, but two rookie quarterbacks. Yes, the Falcons took down the undefeated reigning champs, but the Broncos should have had one loss. They didn’t win that first game, the Panthers gave it to them. And the Panthers are an absolutely terrible football team.

I get it. It’s the NFL. We all know the cliche, any given Sunday. We all know that means that on any day football is being played, any team in the NFL can win. People praise the NFL because of it’s parity, how every team has a chance to shine on the national stage.

Really?

You are led to believe a lie. They tell you the NFL is full of parity. While it’s true that any team can beat any time on any Sunday, that all changes in January. The NFL Playoffs, and especially the Super Bowl, has always been and will always be a pretty exclusive club. Occasionally they accept new members, but it takes them years to gain admittance, and then when they get there, they stay there.

Let’s look at the last five Super Bowls, shall we?

Super Bowl XVLI: Giants beat the Patriots
Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens beat the 49ers
Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks beat the Broncos
Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots beat the Seahawks
Super Bowl L: Broncos beats the Panthers

Notice anything?  Sixty percent of the teams are the same. Only one Super Bowl featured teams that weren’t in a previous one, the Ravens and the 49ers. How did the Ravens get there? By beating the Colts, Broncos and Patriots. The 49ers? Oh you know, just the Packers and the aforementioned Falcons. The Falcons were the No. 1 seed. It was an upset by a franchise who has long been a member of the esteemed Super Bowl club. 

Doesn’t seem like there is much more parity than there is in baseball does there? The Royals won last year. The Kansas City Royals people. There will be a new champion this year decided by two teams that weren’t in the World Series last year. You think you are going to see the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Super Bowl any time soon? I mean take a look at the Bengals. They have made the playoffs five years in a row, six out of the last seven years. Does anyone think they have a serious shot at the Super Bowl? Ever?

Right now, I like the Falcons. I like what they are doing, but they do have some holes in their game. Their defense is young, and thus inconsistent. If Vic Beasley turned a page and starts to play like he did last week every time out, it’s a game changer. For whatever reason you want to give, this team’s lone loss is still against a very bad Bucs team.

Falcons fans don’t need to think they need to win this Sunday in Seattle. It’s Week 6. A 4-1 team isn’t in a must-win situation no matter who they play. As long as the Falcons compete, then they will be just fine. If they get blown out of the water, then it’s time to be concerned.

This Seahawks team is still very good. They have become traditionally slow starters, and are certainly a step slower on defense and lacking the dominant running game of year’s past. But Russell Wilson is a winner, and this team is always going to be in the hunt. And they play in one of the toughest stadiums for opposing teams.

No, a Falcons loss won’t be a bad thing, but a win doesn’t put them any closer to the Super Bowl than they are right now. Should the Falcons stay healthy, they are playoff bound because I simply don’t see the Bucs, Saints or Panthers making any huge turnaround this season and they are bad teams. But that also doesn’t gift them the Super Bowl.

Think about this. I think Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz are the real deal. I don’t think Tony Romo should get his job back. A lot of people constantly tell me it’s too small a sample size and they have to do more before we can pass that judgement. It’s the same with the Falcons, and while you can make the argument that the Falcons are more established than two rookies, then I will point out the first five games from last season.

This has happened before. Do I think the Falcons can contend? Sure, but let’s not forget who they were a month ago. Nomi is the biggest Falcons fan I know. He has done a tremendous job of separating his heart from his analysis every time he has written about the Falcons for Wayniac Nation. Even he felt this was a .500 club at best if you don’t remember. Last season’s 5-0 team finished a .500 ball club, in today’s NFL, you know with all that parity, the same could happen this year.

I like what the Falcons are doing RIGHT NOW. Shanahan seems to have gelled with his offense and they are getting it and Tevin Coleman is a huge addition that was practically invisible last season. They still need more reliability at the secondary wide receivers (Julio’s 300 yard game was freaking amazing, but he can’t do that EVERY week), and Jacob Tamme simply needs to be more consistent as he has had a nice season thus far. The offensive line is vastly improved and it seems like the defense is finally coming together under defensive-minded Dan Quinn.

But that can change in a week. I’m a Houstan Texans fan and last season they were sitting at 2-5 and entering Week 8 on the heels of allowing more than 40 points twice in three weeks. The Falcons? They were 6-1. The Texans finished 9-7 and made the playoffs, where they were exposed and dismantled for they team they really were. The Falcons finished with a worse record.

My point is no one, NO ONE, thought that Texans team that allowed the Falcons and Miami Dolphins to drop almost 100 combined points on them in a three week span were a playoff team. Most people didn’t think the Falcons would miss out on the playoffs, and even more thought they stood no chance at ruining the Panthers perfect season.

Guess what?

That’s why it’s so hard for the Falcons to get love. They are one of the biggest what have you done for me lately teams in the NFL. Lately, in year’s past, they’ve blown it. So be patient Falcons fans. And understand that a loss this weekend in Seattle doesn’t necessarily dismantle all that has been accomplished, no matter what ESPN will tells you. A win doesn’t make them the champions, eithe. The Falcons are great right now, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Just hope that this year it lasts.

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