No one really believed in the Falcons heading into this season. Or at least none of the 42 commentators ESPN asked back in the fall to predict the NFC champion.
.@ESPN sent 42 commentators' @NFL predictions before season. 17 picked Patriots to reach Super Bowl, 16 Packers, 15 Steelers. Falcons? Zero.
— Neil Best (@sportswatch) January 22, 2017
And yet with a blowout win over the Packers on Sunday, the Falcons are headed into the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history, where they’ll be only slight underdogs against the powerhouse Patriots.
It almost makes you forget that only four months ago, Atlanta inspired preseason predictions like this…
There it is, @BarstoolBigCat #Quinn'd #RiseUp https://t.co/HtOmAoiq29 pic.twitter.com/HFvOxydFWZ
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) January 22, 2017
The Falcons owe much of their success in 2016 to quarterback Matt Ryan, who until this year seemed like the epitome of a guy who would get invited to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement and is now the presumptive NFL MVP, having passed for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
It’s enough to make you forget that not too long ago, Ryan was prompting tweets like this:
Has there been a franchise QB not worth the $$ more than Matt Ryan?
— Scott Zolak (@scottzolak) September 11, 2016
Though Ryan had plenty of doubters heading into this season, none was more vocal than noted provocateur Colin Cowherd.
The Atlanta Falcons now have the fourth best QB in the NFC South.
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) September 11, 2016
"[Matt Ryan] is Andy Dalton in a warmer climate." @ColinCowherd and @WhitlockJason strongly disagree about Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons pic.twitter.com/idGxScxCmS
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) September 27, 2016
But it quickly became apparent that anyone forecasting a drab 5-11 finish for the Falcons and another good-but-not-great campaign for Ryan had a defective crystal ball. The Falcons began the season 8-2 and surged to the front of their division, with Ryan throwing 22 touchdowns and three interceptions in those 10 games.
Then came the Oct. 23 game, when Atlanta forked over a 17-point lead against the Chargersto lose in overtime, 33-30.
Falcons are the Browns of the NFC, get their fans hyped for nothing.
@JoshWhitston not me. Matty Ice water maybe? I love my Falcons but I'm not buying the hype with this team.
— Steven Dial (@StevenDialTV) October 24, 2016
The Falcons are the same Falcons from last year…
That's why I don't believe in them.
— George Wrighster (@georgewrighster) October 23, 2016
Add ATL coach on long list of idiot coaches #Falcons
— Bob Fescoe (@bobfescoe) October 23, 2016
This is will be the worst loss I can remember as a Falcons fan and there have been some absolute doozies. What a garbage organization
— David Rutz (@DavidRutz) October 23, 2016
Same old Falcons coaching staff. Time for another collapse.
— Mike Mooneyham (@ByMikeMooneyham) October 23, 2016
The Falcons lost again the next week, 26-24 to Seattle, before winning five straight. Still, many people remained uncomfortable believing in them.
You believe in the Falcons… The same team that just dropped 2 and missed the playoffs last year and always lets you down? https://t.co/6TGY4GCNBR
— George Wrighster (@georgewrighster) November 2, 2016
@ESPNNFL Falcons overrated
— Rev. Eric Dunn (@ericvdunn) November 13, 2016
.@mikefreemanNFL has no faith in Matt Ryan, believes the Atlanta QB won't be able to handle the pressure late in the season pic.twitter.com/khHtPwUQDX
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 5, 2016
"we're going to the super bowl." –@rembert, who is falling for this falcons thing. smh.
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) December 26, 2016
In fact, even after the Falcons finished 11-5, won the NFC South and secured a first-round bye in the playoffs, the disbelievers kept chirping.
How are the Falcons the 2 seed with the 27th worst defense in the league. This season is a scam.
— Phillip Aram (@Phillip_Aram) January 14, 2017
I just DONT believe the Falcons. Sorry. https://t.co/ac0IEXjXVS
— IG: iamBDAHT (@BDAHT) January 16, 2017
@BlackPeopleGif @rawcabral when people gonna stop acting like the Falcons good in the playoffs
— Rev. Eric Dunn (@ericvdunn) January 14, 2017
@JedKMeshew Can't wait til the Falcons choke in the playoffs.
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) January 10, 2017
Easy on the Falcons hype talking heads. There are 5 other teams left in the playoffs all who much rather play Atlanta than ab but Houston.
— D Clay Best (@dclaybest) January 15, 2017
Matt Ryan next weekend…. pic.twitter.com/ifEW7UD9kW
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) January 14, 2017
If Aaron Rodgers were on the Falcons, it would be a 41-17/38-13 Atlanta blowout over Matt Ryan.
— @ColinCowherd. https://t.co/THrBrImHgk pic.twitter.com/lPfoHtLEyY
— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) January 21, 2017
But Atlanta beat Seattle then crushed Green Bay and now finds itself in the Super Bowl, thanks largely to some incredible performances from Ryan. The doubters are now a bit harder to hear.
Oh and Heath Evans owes some guy in his Instagram DMs an apology.
Twitter gives people a voice that should be socially mute! I just had a guy tell me in my IG DM's the Falcons will win the South easy!