The Falcons fans have been ranting about respect all season. They are justified in doing so. The issue isn't about analysts picking the Falcons at all.
It's not about how guys like Skip Bayless act like they have been fans of the team and knew the Falcons would win, despite picking against them before hand.
No. The Falcons fans respect rant is about how the media isn't able to give the Falcons credit when they earn a victory.
Let me start off by taking off the semi-objective hat that I've been wearing all season. I'm a Falcons fan. Plain and simple. I'm a die-hard, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I have to suppress some of the feelings I have about the team when I write and tweet because I try to stay as objective as possible.
Throughout the season, analysts have been picking against Atlanta. Just look at week one. Warren Sapp said the Falcons were going to lose to the Chiefs 41-0. Six of ESPN's 12 analysts also picked the Chiefs to win. Then Atlanta beat the living tar out of them.
Falcons fans honestly don't care if you continually pick against the team all season long. After a while, the underdog role becomes fun, even if the team is the best in the NFC.
And the Falcons right now are the best team in the NFC. They've beaten every team on their schedule, despite losing to the teams they played twice on their schedule. They have the NFC's best record and as Bill Parcells says, "You are what your record says you are."
Add in that they have wins over the reigning Super Bowl Champion, the team that everyone is considering the best in the NFL (the Broncos) and it stands to reason that the best team in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons unless someone can beat them in the playoffs.
So why is the best team in the NFC not getting any respect? Past playoff losses. But that shouldn't affect this season.
Especially when one week the narrative is, "this is where Atlanta proves its mettle," then Atlanta wins and the storyline turns into, "Team X gave them the game." This will completely frustrate fans and start the media backlash we've seen all year.
The Falcons-Giants game was the best example of how these storylines were going against Atlanta. ESPN New York's 10-person panel picked the Giants to win in a 9-to-1 fashion. That means just one analyst picked Atlanta to win.
The average margin of victory seemed to be a two-score win in the Giants favor. And there were comments like Kieran Darcy's, "The Falcons have the better record; the Giants are the better team. And they need this game, badly."
Or even Don la Greca's, "There will be way too much Eli on the field for the Falcons to prevail."
The Falcons won 34-0. Eli threw two interceptions and while he was on the field quite a bit, the Falcons held his offense completely scoreless. Yet the talk was all about how the Giants lost. Media claimed that the Giants just didn't show up (h/t Ralph Vacciano of NY Daily News).
And sure, that post comes from a New York paper, but even ESPN and USA Today completely glanced over it like it was nothing. Instead, they went straight to how it affects the Giants shot at a repeat instead of giving attention to how the Falcons made a true statement.
Only NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas was one who made that claim. But it's his job to make sure that Atlanta and the other three NFC South teams get some positive coverage from the world-wide leader.
So instead of this happening against Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans and of course, the Giants, the analysts should have just said all year, "I won't give Atlanta any credit until they win a playoff game."
It seems like that chance is finally here. Michael Wilbon has been quoted as not even giving Atlanta a chance, as per media usual. He was quoted before Wild Card Weekend as saying (h/t The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter):
“I think the winner will beat Atlanta. I think the winner’s a better team than Atlanta. I would never use the word upset. I think the Redskins are better than Atlanta, and I think Seattle’s better than Atlanta.”
This was despite Atlanta beating Washington earlier this season. It was also despite the fact that the Seahawks haven't beat Atlanta in the Mike Smith era. But he's allowed to have this opinion.
Nonetheless, if Atlanta wins versus Seattle, there is a thought that this will finally get the media to give the Atlanta team credit. The new schemes by Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter will get recognized.
Matt Ryan will get all of the praise he's deserved as a fringe MVP candidate. Roddy White and Julio Jones will be called the best WR duo in the NFL. The Falcons defense will be talked about as a top-10 defense. At least, this is the thought.
However, Falcons fans have a feeling that the media will continue with a, "Team X lost that game in these ways," narrative similar to how they did with Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans and the Giants all year.
If they can give credit to the Falcons for winning the game—should they win of course—the media should finally be able to get Falcons fans off of their backs. However, they will likely just discredit a good team for winning yet again and instead talk about how the other good team lost.
And the Falcons fans rant of "No Respect" will have them still looking like Rodney Dangerfield. But first, Atlanta does need to win this game. Without a win here, critics will be validated and their, "I didn't believe in them all season," rhetoric will sting even more than losing to the Saints does.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.