ATLANTA – The Falcons wrapped up the 2018 preseason Thursday night and I can't get the words of an old Public Enemy song out of my head.
"Don't Believe the Hype."
I think it would behoove fans of the Red and Black to chew on those lyrics dropped by Chuck D and Flavor Flav. Yeah, I just wrote that.
This isn't a shot at the national writers – some I consider dear friends – but their thoughtful prognostications mean absolutely nothing right now.
None of it means a thing.
The Falcons are about to embark on a 115-day marathon. It begins Sept. 6 in Philadelphia and ends on Dec. 30 in Tampa Bay. During those 16 weeks (and three days), we'll learn everything we need to know about these Falcons.
That opening game – the 2018 NFL Kickoff – is no doubt a big one. It's a conference game and it's on national television against the defending Super Bowl champs – the same team that ended the Falcons' season last year.
Heck, even Shawn Mendes will perform live before the game at Penn's Landing. If “Stitches” doesn’t get you stoked for the new season … well, never mind. Forget I just wrote that.
Remember, though, this is one game.
To quote one of my colleagues at work, "Last time I checked, they don't hand out Lombardi Trophies in Week 1." No, they don't. Nor do they after Week 7 or Week 17, for that matter.
Every team has a chance in the NFL. This is a league where teams routinely go from worst to first.
In case you need a quick reminder, those aforementioned Eagles became the first team since the 2009 Saints to win the Super Bowl after finishing in last place in their division the previous season. The Jaguars won the AFC South title for the first time in franchise history after finishing in the cellar in 2016.
No one was touting those teams as Super Bowl favorites heading into last season. The Eagles finished 13-3, won it all, and the Jaguars, who went 10-6 in 2017, lost by four points in the AFC title game.
Back to the Falcons.
Is this team worthy of all the preseason hype? Sure. Most of the starters from last year's 10-6 playoff team are back – on both sides of the ball. I can think of just three significant contributors who are no longer here: Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn and Taylor Gabriel. When you look around at the 31 teams in those terms, that's pretty good.
And these Dirty Birds are talented, experienced and the roster is fairly deep in some key areas. They still have the 2016 league MVP behind center and he still has the best receiver on the planet to throw to. The defense, a unit that finished in the top 10 a year ago, is young, fast and features one of the game's best linebackers in Deion Jones.
The defense is "now to the point where anything short of greatness would be disappointing," writes Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit.
So, yes, there's a lot to like about this team.
Beating the Eagles in Philadelphia – on the night of their big Super Bowl celebration no less – would be a terrific way to start the season. Roads wins are tough to come by in the NFL.
But it's one game.
In 2016, the Falcons opened the season with a disappointing 31-24 loss to the Buccaneers. A divisional loss. At home in the old Georgia Dome. Some around these parts thought the sky was falling.
Another quick history lesson: The 2016 Falcons won five of their final six regular-season games, captured the NFC title and advanced to Super Bowl LI.
It's a long season and anything can happen. It's not how teams start, but it's making it into the postseason that ultimately counts. Six wild-card teams have gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Do yourself a favor and forget both the 0-4 preseason finish and as well as all of the delusions of grandeur these national writers have for your beloved Falcons. I guarantee coach Dan Quinn and the soon-to-be named 53 players on this roster aren't paying attention to any of it.
I can't speak for Quinn and Co., but I'm sure they'd tell say something along the lines of …
Don't believe the hype.