The Falcons, for the past five years, have been one of the best franchises in the NFL, a model of consistency and building the right way. Along the way, they've been one of the most successful teams in the league during that time and they have the wins to show for it.
One of the main reasons for the lack of respect from around the football country is Atlanta's recent postseason history. They've made three trips into the postseason in the last four seasons and this year makes four of five.
This season, the Falcons have had one focus: get to the Super Bowl. That's every team's season-opening goal, but the Falcons kept themselves in the conversation as Super Bowl contenders throughout the entire season. Having the league's best record can do that for you, but there are still those detractors that say "but ...".
"We know everybody is waiting for us to get into the playoffs and do something there," running back Michael Turner said. "We're not worried about any credit or notoriety from anybody."
While no one would ever say this season has been about setting up a scenario very similar to what the Falcons had in 2010 when they lost to the Packers in the second round, nearly everything is in the same. They're the top seed in the NFC. They've got the first-round bye. They've got home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Everything is the same as two seasons ago, except the Falcons. They're different from that team. They're older, wiser, more experienced and quite frankly, according to the Falcons themselves, they're better.
They're back in the playoffs after a season of answering questions about losing in the playoffs. They believe they're different, but they've got to go out and show everyone else.
"We can finally prove what we've got, we can see what we've got here," Turner said. "We've got to handle business on the field."
Most of the players have openly said they don't blame the media and fans alike for pointing to the lack of success in the playoffs when discussing the team. They understand it and in some ways the 2012 season has been about just getting into the playoffs and changing perceptions. They've created another good situation for themselves as they begin to prepare for this year's playoff game next week. After that, they just have to go out and win.
"The ball is on our court now," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We've put ourselves in a great position going into these playoffs. Now it's our turn to go out and execute and make sure we show the proof is in the pudding."