Admit it, back before the Falcons had fledged this season, back in the sultry days of training camp, you would have bought an 11-win campaign, a conference championship and a single playoff game and never asked for a penny of change.
After the opener, a home loss to Tampa Bay – AJC headline that next day: NO UPGRADE SEEN YET – you might have considered the place where the Falcons find themselves today to be as fantastic and fictional as Xanadu.
But, now, of course, you want more.
They moved the sticks on what constitutes a successful season. Blame it on an offense gone wild. Blame it on the gnawing hunger that never goes away around here. Now, if the Falcons were to bow out after a single playoff home game against Seattle, they would leave behind a slightly bitter aftertaste.
How far, in theory, must the Falcons go to have this season be marked as passable?
They’ve already improved by three games over Dan Quinn’s first season, and returned to the playoffs after a three-season absence. By any reasonable measure, the whole thing could end this weekend and be deemed a very respectable step forward.
But this is sports, and reason can never seem to buy a ticket for the playoffs.
- Shanahan says he's not focused on head coaching jobs
- Bettors boost Falcons to five-point favorites
- Healthy Falcons ‘full speed’ vs. Seahawks
- Falcons rookies by the numbers
- Quinn, Ryan chat about QB’s playoff record
- Falcons staying the course in playoffs: ‘Do what we do’
- Quinn expects no injury absences for first practice
- Will Quinn remain aggressive with Falcons in playoffs?
- Falcons say they are ‘better version of selves’ since loss to Seahawks
- Falcons draw Seahawks, and that’s good for them
- Falcons unbalanced but so are most in these playoffs
- Final NFL power rankings: Falcons are true contenders
- Falcons rookies bolster defense
Having earned a home playoff game – never mind that they are one game better on the road this season – the Falcons positioned themselves as the favorite Saturday. The betting public, seldom a group to give this team the benefit of the doubt, has decided the Falcons have to give 4 to 4 ½ points. Expectation has been thoroughly fed and watered.
Quinn is 0-1 against his old employer, losing earlier this season to Seattle because Richard Sherman got away with simple battery. This is not some tomato can they are bringing in for the amusement of the masses. Nor is it exactly a proven champion the Seahawks are meeting, what with a defense that is young and untested in the ways of January, and a quarterback whose postseason passport has been stamped with but a single victory (against Seattle).
You should be quite anxious going into this game. But nevertheless you will consider it a must-win kind of event.
Just give me one more victory, you’ll say, and you’ll be satisfied that the Falcons have fulfilled their potential. There, now, it’s a successful season.
Then, should they survive, the next weekend will approach and some of you will say they have to win again to please you. You’ll want more, maybe even expect more. It’ll be the Super Bowl or bust.
That’s just how this time of year. Enjoy it while you can, this pleasurable diversion of stretching logic and reason like Silly Putty.