BrettGreenberg, Staff Reporter
After the Atlanta Falcons 2016 season, all the National Football League (NFL) experts, analysts and fans labeled the 2017 Atlanta squad as a lock for the playoffs and the National Football Conference (NFC) favorite to reach the Super Bowl. The team returned all 22 starters and gained experience both for the veterans and young players. The NFC South division was not predicted to be a challenge for this young and fast team full of freakish athleticism.
The team got off to a hot start winning their first three games, but not convincingly enough for the beloved fans of the Falcons. The team edged out a win over the Lions and the Bears on two blown calls. The team went on to defend their brand new stadium and look like their 2016 selves in a 34-23 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Everything was going as planned, but the next three weeks of the season proved to be Matt Ryan and the rest of the team’s first challenge as they dropped the next three games and fell to a 3-3 record for the season. The prolific offense of 2016 was just not there, with arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones, not having much success on the field and especially not in the endzone with zero touchdowns. This team was written off as a bust and believed to have 2016 labeled as a fluke season. Then came the month of November, where the Falcons won three out of their four matchups and all was well. Julio Jones was getting back to his freak self, Matt Ryan was playing great and the young and rather inexperienced defense was growing with each game.
Throughout week twelve of the season, the Falcons nursed a 7-5 record. In any other division in the NFL, the Falcons would likely be a lock for the playoffs, but unpredictably, the NFC South is perhaps the strongest division in the league with the 9-3 New Orleans Saints winning nine out of their last ten and the Carolina Panthers who are 8-4. The Saints are on fire and do not seem to have any plans to hit the brakes and hope to finish out the season as the winner of the NFC South and get a home playoff game. The Carolina Panthers are looking for a Wild Card berth.
Although the Falcons are one game back from the division leader and currently hold a spot in the wild card game, they control their own destiny and have an opportunity to win the division or throw away the season. The Falcons have three games remaining on the schedule, all of which are against division foes. The team plays the division leader, the New Orleans Saints one time, the Carolina Panthers one time and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one time.
The Falcons control their own destiny. So if the coaching staff can put the players in positions to succeed, and if the players can do even half of what they did back in 2016, this 2017 team has zero reason to not be in the playoffs and even go back to the Super Bowl. This team has an abundance of young talent while also being fortunate enough to have seasoned veterans.