Its always dangerous for a team to be desperate to win a playoff game. You never want the emphasis to be on winning just one game, instead of aiming for a championship.
Thats the position the Atlanta Falcons are in this year. They are desperate to finally break through and win in the postseason. But is the fan base going to be satisfied if they finally do that but then fall short of the ultimate goal?
Will winning one playoff game be that next logical step, or will that be just as disappointing as it was in years past?
Its the fifth year of the latest era of Falcons football. Thomas Dimitroff is the general manager. Mike Smith is the head coach. Matt Ryan is the quarterback. They are all in their fifth year with the franchise.
Theyve achieved a lot of success. Who will complain about having four consecutive winning seasons for a team that had never had back-to-back winning seasons before this group arrived?
And yet, like any other fan base, give us a little, and we come back asking for more.
The loss to the New York Giants in the playoffs in January still stings. It ranked right up there with the heartbreaking loss to Dallas back in 1981. Everyone thought the Falcons were better than that, but instead, they looked like amateurs playing in a professional league.
This just cant happen again. Its time for the corner to be turned, to get over the proverbial hump. If Atlanta keeps on running into teams that are simply better than it is, everyone will perhaps come to the conclusion that the Falcons might just be good but might never be great.
Great teams win championships. Good teams have winning seasons. Its hard to complain about that, but when youve had four good seasons in a row, its time for this team to be great.
This years Falcons team should be better. They have new coordinators on both sides of the ball, which is a good thing. New ideas, new strategies guard against complacency for a system that has been in place and has had some success.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter already has made interesting changes, with screen passes and other things that can make Ryan become an elite quarterback. Of course, Ryan has receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones, and they might help make it easier more than anything else for Ryan to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has a new cornerback to work with in Asante Samuel. But will the three-headed cornerback system work in Atlanta, as Samuel joins Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes? It didnt in Philadelphia, and thats why the Eagles jettisoned Samuel to the Falcons. Nolan might be smart enough to figure it out, however, and make it an asset for Atlanta.
The Falcons will win the NFC South. I know the New Orleans Saints got their suspended players back, but there just seems to be too much turmoil for New Orleans to overcome this season. Carolina and Tampa Bay should be better than last year, but the Falcons will have the best team in the division.
That will be great. But its going to come down to what this team does in January to fully judge the season. If the Falcons fail to make it, many might be re-evaluated. Its the old adage of, Well, if they cant get us to where we need to be, maybe we need to try someone else.
This team is close, and if the Falcons get hot late in the season (as New York did last year and Green Bay did two years ago), theres no doubt they could do damage in the playoffs. But the more logical step is some success in the playoffs this season, followed by higher expectations in 2013.
The challenge starts Sunday in Kansas City. Atlanta says its ready to take that next step. The fans love all the winning, but theyre ready for the next step, as well.
Listen to The Bill Shanks Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.