I’ll be the first to admit I pretty much slept through the entire NFL regular season. Of course I knew who the usual suspects would be to look out for this season, but I would be lying through my teeth if I said the Atlanta Falcons were anywhere on my radar. And I’m not the only one, 42 ESPN commentators made their preseason Super Bowl predictions and you know how many picked the Falcons? Zero. Twenty NFL.com analysts did the same thing and guess how many had Atlanta going to the Super Bowl? Zero.
The smarty-pants at Fox Sports conducted a preseason team-by-team forecast. They ranked eight NFC teams ahead of Atlanta. Needless to say these analysts know more about football than me, or at least their paychecks say that they do.
But no matter our pay grade or knowledge of the game we all underestimated the Atlanta Falcons. We underestimated how much of a leap the Falcons’ offense would make in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s second season. We underestimated veteran quarterback Matt Ryan who has had an MVP type season at the age of 31.
We underestimated Atlanta’s running game. We failed to recognize that Atlanta’s rebuilt offensive line was no longer a punch line – but becoming an asset.
And now, after embarrassing the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s NFC title game, the Falcons are Super Bowl-bound and I, like countless others, did not see any of this coming.
These aren’t the Falcons of old. These aren’t the inconsistent and unstable on offense, lacking teeth on defense – that we became accustomed to between 2013 and 2015, when they won just 18 of 48 games and made no playoff appearances.
This Atlanta team is different and we all owe them an apology, myself included.
Megan Huston is the sports editor for The Meteor. She can be reached at 936-348-3505 or firstname.lastname@example.org.