The Atlanta Falcons should be cautiously optimistic watching Super Bowl 55 on Sunday.
Of course, the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons themselves would rather be playing in it. But they have reason to be encouraged.
The Falcons had the fortune of facing both teams this year: the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And while they went 0-3 in the matchups, they hung in two of the three games.
The Falcons ended the year with a Bucs, Chiefs, Bucs again schedule and until week 17, they played with some fight.
The Falcons lost the first two games in that stretch by a combined seven points.
To be quite honest, they should’ve won them both. They blew a 17-0 lead against Tampa Bay, at home. Fans saw the lead-blowing, same excuse team that we’d grown so accustomed to seeing but it showed they could hang with the eventual NFC champions.
Atlanta Falcons showed that this team has enough talent to compete.
Then Atlanta went on the road to Arrowhead and held the vaunted Chiefs to just 17 points. They had a 14-10 lead in the 4th quarter, and were a dropped interception and missed field goal away from a potential win.
Week 17 against Tampa though, the Falcons just looked like a team missing the playoffs for the third year in a row.
But the Atlanta Falcons should be encouraged. For the second year in a row, with nothing to gain and draft positioning to lose they showed late in the season, they could compete with the eventual NFC champion.
Now it’s on Arthur Smith to capitalize on that momentum, something Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris were incapable of doing. The Falcons have spurts when they show they aren’t that far off.
Then they have games, like against MVP Aaron Rodgers, where they look absolutely lost and you wonder if the NFL should institute a mercy rule. We know the Falcons are in cap hell, have aging stars and a new coach and GM in town.
Looking at their final three games of the season, and where those two teams ended up, they should all be watching this Super Bowl knowing they may not be that far off.