NFL: Atlanta Falcons will be in the playoffs in 2014 if…

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Use any headline you want when it comes to the Atlanta Falcons’ unexpected fall from grace in 2013.

Grounded…For The Birds…Clipped…

Take your pick. It all adds up to the team tied with the best record in the NFL the previous season (13-3) to a club that fell to 4-12 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2009. How bad of a collapse was it for this program? Atlanta’s four victories were by a mere combined total of 19 points and each came against a team that finished last in its division in 2013.

It was certainly a strange turn of event for a team that had enjoyed a franchise-record five straight winning seasons and a team-best three straight playoff appearances.

In 2008, the team hired general manager Thomas Dimitroff, named Mike Smith head coach and drafted quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick. It added up to a 56-24 record over the next five seasons, a mark topped only by the New England Patriots (60-20) over that span.

Still, none of that means much coming off a four-win campaign. As we are constantly reminded, the Falcons have not fared well in the playoffs (1-4) despite making four appearances in that aforementioned five-year span, twice as the NFC’s top seed (2010 and 2012).

Then again, last year’s disaster is also now a thing of the past. It’s rebounding time in Atlanta and we are not talking about the Hawks.

This is the sixth part of a 32-team series in which we’ll look at the “if, and & but’s” of each team’s chances to make the postseason.

So, Atlanta will reach the playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons…

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Devonta Freeman Jake Matthews Jon Asamoah Julio Jones Matt Ryan Mike Smith New Orleans Saints NFC South Paul Soliai Roddy White Steven Jackson Thomas Dimitroff Tyson Jackson