In the heart of the offseason, we amuse ourselves in odd ways. I've been tooling around on Pro Football Reference and looking up some of the mediocre (or worse) teams who wound up making noise the following year, since that's the path the Falcons would have to take to relevance in 2016. That's how I discovered that since the advent of the Super Bowl, only seven teams have gone .500 or worse in one season and won the Super Bowl the next.
Those teams were, in order from oldest to most recent, the 1981 San Francisco 49ers (6-10 the year before); the 1982 Washington Redskins in a strike-shortened season (8-8); the 1999 Rams (4-12); the 2000 Ravens (8-8); the 2001 Patriots (5-11); the 2006 Giants (8-8), and regrettably, the 2008 Saints (8-8). For those counting along at home, that's four teams who clocked in at .500, and three teams that fared worse, including the most impressive single year turnaround for the Rams.
I bring this up not so much to convince you that the Falcons are destined for this path as to note that the NFL has its examples of teams who were not great (or downright bad) charting a sudden course to relevance. I'd like to tell you I strongly believe the Falcons will become team #8, but I don't. Genuine improvement, a potential playoff berth, and a shot at a championship, though? We'd all take that in 2016.