I said after the Chicago game that it would be awesome if we got to week 16 and we were still in the playoff mix. I wasn't being greedy at the time and even seriously thinking we could actually make it, however my attitude has changed now that it is week 16 and we are certainly in the playoff picture.
You have to take advantage of good seasons in the NFL. It is rare for a franchise to year in and year out make the playoffs and have 10+ win seasons, especially in Atlanta. Now that the Birds are 9-5 and can get in the playoffs, why not aim even higher? There is not a dominant team in the league and Pittsburgh and the NY Giants showed that Wild Card teams can make deep runs in the postseason.
In 2002, everyone said to themselves, "We will be in the running for a Super Bowl every year for the next 10 with Mike Vick under center." Everyone knows how that situation worked out. You just don't know. What if Matt Ryan turns into Derek Anderson? What if Michael Turner tears an ACL in the pre-season next year? Just ask San Diego and Jacksonville how easy it is to go into a season after experiencing some success and rolling through an NFL schedule.
Matt Ryan is 23 years old. If the Birds expect 10 solid years out of their franchise QB, how many times will he have ATL in a position this late in the year as he does this year? What if Ryan loses a year to injury? What if Sam Bradford is the next Tom Brady and wins 3 Super Bowls playing for an NFC team? You just can't expect to be 9-5 or better 7-8 times the next 10 years going into Week 16.
In August, losing to Minnesota this week and ending with a win over St Louis to finish with a 10-6 record and barely missing the playoffs sounded like heaven. Now, this scenario makes me want to vomit. Take advantage of the breaks you got this year. Miraculously winning the Chicago game, overcoming 3 turnovers to beat San Diego, overcoming 3 turnovers plus a blocked punt to beat Tampa Bay, and see how far you can go in the playoffs.
Finally, I think one of the hardest things to do in the NFL is to win 10 games and miss the playoffs. Too many teams have gotten in with 8 or 9 wins in NFL history, that winning 10 is extremely frustratig for a franchise. Plus, it enhances expectations for the next season. Imagine an 11-5 Falcons team that misses the playoffs expectations for 2009. Ask Cleveland how hard it is to meet that expectaion and the pressure that comes with it...