The Atlanta Falcons are one of the 28 NFL franchises to make at least one Super Bowl appearance. They are also one of 13 clubs never to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. The team’s lone appearance in the Big Game came in 1998, a season which resulted in a 34-19 loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. In fact, the city of Atlanta has hosted more Super Bowls than the Falcons have played in.

But is that about to change over the course of the next few weeks? The opportunity is certainly there for quarterback Matt Ryan and a rejuvenated attack that wound up leading the NFL with 540 points this year.

That figure is tied for the eighth-most in one season in league history. It’s also an astonishing 201 points more than head coach Dan Quinn’s club totalled a year ago during his first season at the helm of the team.

So what happened? A few key additions, some adjustments by coordinator Kyle Shanahan and better play from the men in the trenches have all combined to make Ryan a much more dangerous and consistent quarterback.

The turnaround

Flashback to a year ago. The Atlanta Falcons opened the season and the Quinn Era with five consecutive wins. But it would all come apart as the team dropped eight of its final 11 contests. Ryan was tagged the fall guy by some, mainly because he didn’t have an outstanding season from start to finish.

He finished the year with 21 TD passes compared to 16 interceptions. He threw for 4,591 yards and also lost five fumbles.

This season, Ryan has enjoyed quite the reversal of fortunes. He fell 56 yards short of 5,000 yards through the air but connected on a whopping 69.9 percent of his throws. The talented quarterback threw for 38 scores (to 13 different players) and was picked off only seven times.

Ryan fumbled only four times and lost two of those miscues.

Credit goes to centre Alex Mack when it comes to solidifying the offensive front. Julio Jones and free-agent pickups Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel were huge signings. And the 1-2 punch of running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were potent all season. But mostly it was Ryan, who earned First-Team All-Pro honors this season.

And he’s also a strong candidate to garner NFL MVP accolades as well.

Super Bowl bound?

So are the Atlanta Falcons a via Super Bowl contender? Despite the heroics of pass-rushing standout and 2016 NFL sack leader Vic Beasley (15.5), this is a club that does not inspire a lot of confidence when it comes to the defensive side of the football. And history says all those points and the inability to stop the opposition from doing the same is a bad combination. But history also has a way of changing on occasion. Stay tuned.