Having never posted back-to-back winning seasons in the franchise's 42-year history, Atlanta football fans have been tortured too many times with flashes of hope, only for it to be washed down the drain in the seasons that follow.
The two most recent of these scenarios occurred in the 1999 season, after the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, and of course, the highly-noted 2007 season after the turmoil that was Michael Vick's dogfighting fiasco and Bobby Petrino's cowardly resignation after only 13 games as an NFL head coach.
Through it all though, the 2008 Atlanta Falcons are giving fans in Atlanta more hope than they ever have before that that streak will soon come to an end. With nearly every media pundit and fan of the game that witnessed the torturous season the Falcons had last year, it was evident that this team would be at best the second worst team in the whole league.
If anyone envisioned at the beginning of this season that after nine games the Falcons would have six wins, then I would love to get their advice on what lottery numbers to pick for the Mega Millions game.
Before the season it was perceived that six wins for the entire year would be a resounding success for the Falcons, who have a first year NFL head coach in Mike Smith and rookies at three of the most important positions in the NFL.
Led by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, Thomas Dimitroff's first NFL draft class looks like it may be the best in Falcon's history.
Also contributing as a rookie is nickelback Chevis Jackson and wide receiver/punt returner Harry Douglas. This strong rookie class added to the young core of up and coming stars Roddy White, Michael Turner, Michael Boley, and Chris Houston gives the city of Atlanta and all Falcons fans a reason to hope that they may get those consecutive winning seasons quicker than anyone expected.
You definitely can't forget the value that experience has on a successful team in the NFL. The Falcons sure have a strong group of veterans that the young guys can lean on for advice both on and off the field.
Both outside linebacker Keith Brooking, the only roster holdover from the Falcon's Super Bowl appearance in 1998, and strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who has appeared in two Super Bowls, while winning a championship as a member of the New England Patriots in 2001, have provided the on-the-field leadership, as well as leadership in the locker room.
While there's still plenty of football to be played, no matter what happens from here on out, the Falcons have sent a message across the league that they are a team on the rise. Teams in the NFL better make way, because the Atlanta Falcons are beginning to soar to new heights.
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