The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Super Bowl winner in the playoffs each of the last two years. They reached the NFL's championship game before losing to the New England Patriots to end the 2016 campaign and got knocked out by the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round last season.
Now, the Falcons have every reason to think they can reach the mountaintop.
They return most of the impact players from a roster that ranked inside the top 10 in both total offense and total defense en route to a 10-6 record in 2017.
Atlanta is tied for the ninth-best odds (22-1) to win the Super Bowl at this stage of the offseason, according to OddsShark.
Let's check out the complete list of information following Thursday's release of the entire regular-season slate, per NFL.com, and then analyze the team's 2018 outlook.
Falcons' 2018 Schedule
Week 1: at Eagles on Sept. 6 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
Week 2: vs. Panthers on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 3: vs. Saints on Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 4: vs. Bengals on Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 5: at Steelers on Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 6: vs. Buccaneers on Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 7: vs. Giants on Oct. 22 at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Redskins on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 10: at Browns on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 11: vs. Cowboys on Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 12: at Saints on Nov. 22 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
Week 13: vs. Ravens on Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Week 14: at Packers on Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 15: vs. Cardinals on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 16: at Panthers on Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
Week 17: at Buccaneers on Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox
The Falcons entered the offseason in a tough spot. They have limited available cap space, which isn't uncommon for a title-contending organization, but the front office also needed to plan for the future with an extension for quarterback Matt Ryan looming.
Therefore the roster is much the same as it was one year ago. The question is whether there will be enough internal player development to put the team over the top.
The offense should once again be among the NFL's most explosive. Ryan has no shortage of weapons at his disposal with the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined with a receiving corps led by Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and emerging tight end Austin Hooper.
On defense, the focus will be generating more turnovers. Atlanta tied for 27th in takeaways with just 16 last season. Becoming more opportunistic on that side of the ball is crucial.
It starts with the secondary, led by Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, after the team finished last season with only eight interceptions.
The NFC South is one of the league's most competitive divisions, and it will be even tougher if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bounce back from a down year. So games against the Bucs, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are always critical.
Beyond that, the Falcons will want to take care of business at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
They face a tough road schedule that includes trips to face the Eagles (to open the season), Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in addition to the divisional foes. So it's possible they could finish the year with a .500 or worse record on the road.
That means Atlanta probably needs to go a minimum of 6-2 at home to put itself in the playoffs. That's within the range of reason against what's mostly a middling group of opponents, but the margin for error will be thin if the Falcons don't exceed expectations away from the the ATL.