I don't think it is possible to win the Super Bowl in Week 13 of the NFL season.
It is, however, possible to lose it.
The Atlanta Falcons found themselves facing that very possibility last night when they were taking on their biggest divisional rival in the New Orleans Saints.
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Had Atlanta lost to New Orleans again, I believe you could have effectively counted them out for a Super Bowl appearance. Sure, they would still make the playoffs, and they possess enough talent and skill to probably win a postseason game or two. But another loss to the team from down on the bayou would have become such a huge mental stigma that any hopes of going on a deep playoff run would have most likely been dashed.
That's why this was a big stepping-stone in the development of Atlanta from pretender to contender in the NFL.
The Saints had won 4 in a row, and 7 of the last 8 against the Falcons before Thursday night's showdown. The Falcons had to be wondering if they had what it takes to defeat New Orleans, and I believe another loss would have left Atlanta not only questioning themselves and their abilities, but more importantly, each other.
And that's no way to win a Super Bowl.
The Falcons were helped in their effort by none other than Drew Brees, who has made a career out of diminishing Atlanta's secondary over the past several years. On Thursday, however, Brees threw a whopping 5 interceptions, a feat matched by only two guys this season -- the Cowboys' Tony Romo, and, you guessed it, the Falcons' Matt Ryan, who equaled that total 2 weeks ago versus the Arizona Cardinals.
The game was still in question late, even though Atlanta jumped out to an early 17-0 lead. New Orleans reeled off 13 unanswered points, and seemed poised to take the lead on a couple of occasions. But Brees continually threw to guys wearing the wrong jersey, allowing the Falcons to pull away late, 23-13.
Overcoming their inability to defeat the Saints certainly doesn't guarantee that Atlanta will win, or even appear, in the Super Bowl. What it does do is prove to themselves that there isn't a team in the league, at least in their mind, they can't beat.
Only time will tell if that mindset is accurate.