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2018 sums up exactly what it means to cheer for the Atlanta Falcons

Welcome to the picture-perfect snapshot of what it means to be a Falcons fan.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. Welcome to the joys and frustrations of snowballing agony and agape (the Greek word for love, not the adjective for something that’s really open).

Welcome to what it means to cheer for the Atlanta Falcons.

What was once a 2018 Super Bowl swell looks to be downgrading to something far less potent.

Though, ponder with me for a moment. What really happens if the Falcons don’t win it all this year?

For the long-term Dirty Birds in our flock, gruff mumbles fill the air. “Well, at least it’d be familiar.” For the others around the campfire, that glorious visage of 28-3 rectified in a home game and a Peachtree Street parade grows foggier in the rearview.

For those that are just too numb to care much about this team past being somewhat happy if they won, games like Sunday register as another blip in a series of “coulda, woulda, shouldas,” the banner slogan for the history of a franchise that gave up 31 unanswered points in a quarter-and-a-half of championship football (and overtime).

This Sunday, Same as the Last Sunday

The sad part is there’s nothing more representative of where this team historically stands than when your arch-rival takes them down at home in overtime after a rushing TD by the rival’s 39-year-old quarterback ties the game. This is also on the day your franchise legend throws for five touchdowns for the first time in his career, mind you.

The overtime was made possible in part by a blocked punt that gave the league’s most dangerous red zone quarterback prime positioning to get points, which he assuredly did. Also, on that overtime drive, your starting free safety and lead defensive communicator probably goes down for the year with an Achilles injury.

Then again, your rookie wide receiver has an arrival like few have in team history and scored three touchdowns. Your offensive coordinator is figuring it out, too. He’s scored 30-plus points in two-straight weeks. He only scored 30-plus points four times in general before this season and only once against a divisional foe (the lowly Bucs).

Then again, your once-anticipated defense looks like the injured bench in Space Jam.

Losing so many stars just doesn’t happen this often. The loom of a season infested with injury bugs hasn’t draped over Flowery Branch since that notorious 2013 season, but boy howdy, it’s happened now.

It’s only Week 3, too. Is the team handling this properly? What’s keeping them from just getting Eric Reid in here? Can this defense survive not being bullied late into games once their energy goes out? Why on Earth can’t they tackle?

The Falcons are 1-2. They could still probably make the playoffs if the offense keeps this up. This defense also is still, somehow, good enough to get stops here and there, though losing Ricardo Allen would be a nightmarish development. You now might not have enough now to contend with the NFC’s best teams in crunch time.

All at once, you somehow have something to hold onto and something to pull you deeper into the quick sand.

Welcome to being a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. This team can’t even make you feel sad properly because somehow there’s always a silver lining, gleaming just out of reach.

The Falcons will always rain on your pity party.

As It Stands, So It Goes

For 2018, such is the case. No one can be outright downtrodden with the outcome of things. Atlanta’s offense looks strong, and they’re surviving life without Andy Levitre. After nearly getting the fandom pink slip two weeks ago, OC Steve Sarkisian is maturing right in front of us. Whatever they did in the offseason is starting to work. The defense also looks to be built to last on paper, outside of some quibbles on the defensive line.

The Falcons, for once, might’ve finally done everything to put themselves in the position to maybe win the big one for real this time.

Except not get injured.

It’s a cruel, cruel, cruel twist of irony to think that it could be the Baron of Bangs and Bruises that dooms the team this season.

That’s not a sure thing, though. There are a lot of questions right now without a lot of answers. There are a lot of outcomes without a lot of warning. There is a lot of acceptance without any balm. There is a lot of optimism without any takers.

This is the Atlanta Falcons in a nutshell, for 2018 and in general. One day, scientifically, that won’t be the case. They will eventually win a Super Bowl. Will any of us be alive for that? Who’s to say?

But this is why we do this every week. We come for the highs and lows, voluntarily, because it’s all we know, and we won’t do it any other way.

After February 5, 2017, you can be assured we’re ready for it.

If anything, 2018 does show something eternally promising about this team. At least they’re consistent.