My friend Chris Beckham has a term for the change in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the old losing days and terrible bright orange uniforms to the new winning ways and still terrible pewter uniforms. He calls them the "New Bucs."
He came up with that a few years back when Tony Dungy took over as their head coach and they actually started winning games.
I think that phrase can be adjusted to the Falcons because these are certainly not the old Falcons anymore.
The franchise that could never pull off back to back winning seasons has now clinched three straight. The Falcons no longer make stupid mistakes on and off the field; instead they benefit from other teams making those mistakes (see Nate Clements earlier this year for the 49ers against the Falcons).
These Falcons are steady and strong and solid and any other adjective you can think of. The keys in the NFL are to be strong at general manager, head coach and quarterback, and the Falcons are set at all three with Thomas Dimitroff (general manager), Mike Smith (head coach) and Matt Ryan (quarterback).
In the past few years, the Falcons have seen NFC rivals Tampa Bay and New Orleans win Super Bowl titles, and Atlanta just might be next. At 9-2, Atlanta has the best record in the NFC and is tied for the best record in the NFL.
If the Falcons were in, say, New York, ESPN would be all over them, hyping them up. But this team doesn't seem to mind. It just goes about its business of winning games, controlling its home field and making believers of people who truly know football.
If they keep it up, they'll be doing that in Dallas in February in the Super Bowl.
Check out Michael A. Lough's coverage of the Falcons' impressive win over Green Bay on Sunday here. He also has a notebook on just how the Falcons overcame Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.