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Happy 2018! Your Atlanta Falcons are in the playoffs, somehow

It is 2018, and the Falcons are back to the postseason.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2017 offseason and season were long and arduous for the Atlanta Falcons. After the Super Bowl loss, Atlanta was locked in to months upon months of 28-3 jokes and Super Bowl hangover talk. While free agency and the draft were fun, as always, the rest of the year was basically one long desire to forget.

The Falcons did themselves no favors by starting the season 4-0 and then crapping out and falling to the likes of the Bills and Dolphins. As the offense continued to spin its tires, something it did off and on basically all year long, the Falcons kept losing games they should have won and edging out teams they should’ve beaten handily. The defense really did seem to improve as the year went on, but offense and special teams seemed like they would eventually doom the Falcons.

Instead, they took care of business, in the end. They put a frustrating year behind them in a not-so-perfect but still impressive 22-10 win over the Panthers, a game in which Carolina basically never threatened them after the first half. They did it with a solid day from the offense (albeit one without touchdowns), a dominant day from the defense, and a special teams performance defined by Matt Bryant’s potent kicking leg. It was not the way the Falcons of 2016 would have won, but it was still a win. At 10-6 and the #6 seed in the NFC, Atlanta finished just one game worse and four seeds lower than they were a year ago. Time will tell if they can make the same kind of Super Bowl run they did a year ago, but they have at least made the postseason again.

That’s not the accomplishment it was in years past—we’re used to the Falcons doing well, these days—but it still matters. Atlanta had to kick off the dumb talk that surrounded the team and dispel the doubts that dogged them all year, and to some extent, they have done that.

What lies ahead is uncertain, but with the defensive progress and the team’s ability to fight for a playoff spot gives me hope for both the immediate and long-term future. I’m hopeful 2018 will prove to be the best year yet for these Falcons.

Happy New Year, everyone!