The average Falcons fan is wound up pretty tightly. There are three good reasons for that.
- The four decades of heartbreak, bumbling and bizarre losses that left the average Falcon fan a little shellshocked;
- The media coverage of the Falcons under Mike Smith, which started off sunny and quickly turned into a narrative about how these Falcons have so much to proven, which made us feel as though we were all under siege;
- The fact that these Falcons have fallen short in the playoffs over the last three years.
When you mix those three things together, it's an instant stress potion. Even now, at 11-1 and with the NFC South locked up, there are many perfectly sane and rational Falcons fans who are talking about the rest of the season and the playoffs darkly. I understand this, but I'm coming at it from a different angle.
The Falcons need to play better than they have in the past in order to move through the playoffs, but the tension we're all harboring is unnecessary. These Falcons have a playoff spot already, and they have a two game lead on the top seed with only four games to go. They will face a playoff landscape loaded with deeply flawed contenders, including Giants and Packers teams who have real weaknesses compared to their past versions.
That doesn't guarantee the Falcons won't run into the buzzsaw again. It doesn't guarantee they'll capture their first playoff win of the Mike Smith era. But I think we've fallen victim to the narrative some want to surround this team, where nothing they do is good enough and nothing proves they're a great team. A team that has gone 11-1 without playing the best football it's capable of, a team that picked Drew Brees five times and has so many great players, is pretty damn close to great to begin with.
So my advice is relax for the next four weeks, as much as possible. You'll have plenty of time to be tense and nervous once the playoffs roll around.