The 2017 Atlanta Falcons are bucking the odds.
Before 1988, every Super Bowl runner-up posted a winning record the following season, with most winning their division. Since then, more than 43 percent of the teams to lose in the previous season’s championship game have missed the playoffs in the year that followed.
The Falcons suffered a major collapse, losing to New England Feb. 5 in the Super Bowl in Houston.
The Falcons enter the 2017 playoffs as the sixth seed and will travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams (8:15 p.m., Saturday, NBC). Opening odds have the Falcons as the underdogs, with the Rams as 4.5-point favorites.
(It should be noted that none of NFC playoff teams from last season -- Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Packers, Seahawks -- made this year’s post season.)
This year’s Falcons -- who overcame a mediocre 4-4 start -- still face a mountain to reach the Super Bowl in Minnesota.
Only seven teams have returned to the Super Bowl the year after losing it. Of the seven teams, only two -- the Dallas Cowboys (1971) and Miami Dolphins (1972) -- won in their return to the title game.
In 1999, the Falcons lost Super Bowl XXXIII to the Broncos, 34-19, and went 5-11, missing the playoffs, the following season.
The last NFC team to come close to a Super Bowl return a year after losing it were the 2013 San Francisco 49ers, who lost, 23-17, at Seattle in conference title game.