What’s harder than winning? Try doing it for consecutive years. For some teams, it’s a given. Ask the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots how winning consistently feels. But then you can head over to the NFC South and ask the Carolina Panthers the same thing. Do you remember in 2015 when the Panthers ran through the NFL with a 15-1 record only to be demoralized in the Super Bowl by the Denver Broncos? Well, what followed in 2016 was they came back down to earth and missed the playoffs. This is what the Atlanta Falcons must avoid.
The NFC South is a weird division. Since its inception in 2002, no team had even won the South in back-to-back seasons until the Panthers went on their run in 2013 when they won it three straight seasons until the Falcons took it in 2016. In doing so, the Falcons not only knocked them off as division champs they also took their crown as THE Cinderella team of the year.
Much like the Panthers a season before them, no one saw the Falcons making a play for the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan has lived with the choker stigma his entire career and questions were asked if Julio Jones was good enough to carry the offensive load himself? However, this is why the games are played on the field and not in barbershops or NFL Live studios.
Now the big question is– what do the Falcons do for an encore?
Will they resemble the Panthers and crack under pressure with the same core coming back or will they Rise Up? The stage is set for the Falcons to make another run, however, it was set for the Panthers too. The Falcons will bring back NFL MVP Matt Ryan and his tremendous receiving core featuring Jones. But let’s not forget the Panthers had NFL MVP Cam Newton returning and his core led by Greg Olson and the return of Kelvin Benjamin.
No one knows exactly what happened to the Panthers in 2016 but maybe that magical year was just a fluke. This should have Falcons fans a bit worried. Prior to 2016, when was the last season the Falcons actually made some noise? The Falcons missed the playoffs three straight years and then BOOM.
For them not to fall into the same hole the Panthers did in they must continue to do what got them there.
The Falcons must lean on their offense and pray that the ball bounces their way as it did in 2016. It sounds logical but sometimes it never works out. Ask the Patriots how this goes or the Seattle Seahawks. What about the San Francisco 49ers or the Denver Broncos? The NFL is tough from season to season and any team if in the right place at the right time can make a major leap. The Falcons are just hoping their leap is not over yet like their division rivals.