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Paradoxical Falcons Face Uncertain Future

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The possibilities, both good and bad, are endless after another close Falcons win.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You ever hear the one about the paradox?

Well, a guy walks into a soda parlor, sits down at the counter and orders a Coke Float. He overhears two guys talking about a brain surgery they just finished. He looks at the counter clerk and says, “Man, those guys sure do sound smart. Brain surgery! What a feat.”

The clerk looks over and says, “Oh, yeah, that’s Ernie and Billy, they work downtown at the construction site for the new hotel.”

The guy then exclaims, “that’s a paradox!”

The clerk then says, “Naw, man, they’re just blue-collar guys.”

Rimshot and a round of applause, or rotten tomatoes and cabbages, and a quick hook off the stage.

Why the strange opening to compliment a football article? Chalk it up to an overlong example.

The Atlanta Falcons are trapped in a paradox.

The team, arguably, hasn’t put forth as inspired an effort recently as that Dallas Cowboys stomping in November, which each of their last few games coming down to the literal wire. Two missed field goals to set up overtime, a last-minute pick and a scurrying to keep an acceptable score against a back-up quarterback – that’s the margin of error these Falcons have been operating in.

They’ve been downright nauseating at times, just as they have downright delightful. They’ve popped out the big fireworks just as quickly as they’ve blithely tossed out dampened cherry bombs.

The Falcons can’t field a consistent team, but ever since that rain-on-your-wedding-day New England rematch, they’re 6-2. The losses have come to two of the best NFC teams they’ve played, and both could have easily been won. The wins have come against teams with obvious holes and problems, and few of those victories have come convincingly.

But, here Atlanta stands, with two key divisional games on the horizon. They control their destiny. Win against New Orleans and Carolina, and you win the NFC South and host a playoff game. Just win one of those, and the sixth seed is yours by default. Lose both, you begin to play the “hair-of-your-chinny-chin-chin” game. Actually, lose both, and you’re where you deserve to be – on the outside looking in.

The Falcons paradoxically win games and still leave you wanting. But, they’re winning! But, look at all the holes you can poke! But, wins! But, question marks!

2017 has been a Dirty Bird Twilight Zone. Who’da thunk it’d go like this? Sometimes, the offense works, and doesn’t. Sometimes, the defense works, and doesn’t. The lapses happen at the most random times, and consistency is rare, unless they’re playing a team that just lost its best offensive and defensive players.

But!

If Julio Jones catches a touchdown at Carolina, and they don’t Dolphins, this team could be staring down a first-round bye. If there is no such thing as the ten-second rule in Detroit, they might not even go to the postseason.

The Falcons are quite literally two games away from January one way or the other, and it’s still fair to question who exactly this team is.

This is so confusing. What a paradox.

Consistency is a major, diagnosable concern, and to play bad cop briefly, consider this. If Monday night’s performance is indicative of the team Atlanta is going to field the rest of the way through, don’t get your hopes up for any sort of exciting ride. It’ll be a jarring stop, either in two weeks against Carolina (who is very good), or on the road in January. They won Monday, but it was the kind of tepid second-half effort that should have us all concerned.

But, they won!

And, good cop! Consider this: they got close to beating Minnesota and Carolina in both situations. Neither of those dominant NFC squads thrashed the Falcons through and through, and both of those games were a play away from being wins.

There is so much tantalizing potential for Atlanta that, if they can figure out how to field a full performance just in time for January football, who knows what the ceiling is. That could spark a Super Bowl run.

But they just barely beat the Bucs! The offense should have, to be very honest, put up about 35-40 points on this unit. Tampa Bay was gashed, and was missing so many impact players. And, even at full strength, this team just wasn’t all that great to begin with.

What more is there to say? How many times do we need to go over the various scenarios? Do you understand any of this? Do I? I can assure you, I don’t!

It’s hard to be too excited, or too worried. The Falcons might very well catch fire and go on a run. They might just as well faceplant on New Year’s Eve against the Panthers. There is no telling where this journey ends.

Winning this many close games has to pay off at some point, good or bad. Either they’re going to be forged in fire and driven by February to rip opponents to shreds when it counts, or they’re going to be so out of sorts and inconsistent, it’ll be the dumbest possible thing that puts the 2017 campaign to a halt.

The team operates in a paradoxical void that yields no easy answers, but presents a reality where anything, yes, quite literally anything, is possible.

We’re just going to have to hop on the team bus and do what the Falcons are doing – show up, and see what happens.

Because, trust me, it looks as if they know about as much as we do.

Welcome to the paradox.

By the time this is over, we all may need a paradox.

Rimshot.

Cory is an editor of fellow Falcons site Rise Up Reader, where you can find more Falcons coverage. He is a cohost of the Falcoholic game-recap podcast that airs weekly.