For the Falcons, it’s all about a fresh start

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The injuries. The schedule. The bad luck.

There were no shortage of excuses for the disaster that was the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. A 4-12 record that nobody could have seen coming after the 2012 team played for the NFC Championship, but there they were, trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

It’s simple – put it behind you and make 2014 better.

Much better.

This year’s Falcons start Week 1 mostly healthy, playmakers intact. With the exception of season-ending injuries to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and offensive lineman Sam Baker, they’ll take on the New Orleans Saints with a fairly complete roster.

So that excuse can’t be made, for now.

People have debated the Falcons and whether this season will be better, and all signs point to a resounding “yes.” They have gotten better due to offseason moves, and quarterback Matt Ryan is getting his star receivers back. He’s also going into battle with a fortified offensive line, so he should have more time to throw the football to those dangerous weapons.

And when you consider Ryan threw for 4,515 yards with Harry Douglas as his No. 1 receiver for much of the 2013 season, that’s a scary thought.

4-12 might seem like a tough season to overcome, but there’s also no reason to believe the Falcons’ misfortunes will continue. It’s a fact that the franchise completed a 180-degree turnaround from the decades of mediocrity when Mike Smith and Matt Ryan walked through the door. Even with the 4-12 season factored in, Smith is 60-36 as the head coach, and that’s really good in the NFL, where parity reigns supreme.

The franchise had never experienced back-to-back winning seasons, prior to the Matt Ryan era. Then, they had five straight winning seasons before last year. That’s how you institute a culture of winning, and that doesn’t change just because of one bad season.

The Falcons may not beat the Saints on Sunday, though they should. It’s just the nature of the rivalry. But the Falcons and their fans should believe in a return to the postseason, because even after a putrid 2013 campaign, this should be a playoff team yet again.

Rise up.

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