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Falcons Enter Training Camp Knowing Playoff Success Is How They Will Ultimately Be Judged

The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp on July 26 as they prepare for the 2012 NFL, but there is already conversation about how their playoff success, or failures, is how the team will be graded. The Falcons have made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but so far are 0-3 in those games.

Those teams the Falcons lost to were the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. All three teams went to the Super Bowl with the Packers and Giants both winning, so the criticism might be a bit harsh toward the Falcons postseason success.

Head coach Mike Smith knows that how his team fares in the playoffs will be how his team will be graded:

"I think [the playoffs] is how everybody measures themselves," he said. "We didn't talk about expectations in the first year. We talked about milestones. One of them we wanted to reach was to participate in the second season. Where we are now and how we've developed in our first four years, we're going to judged on the playoffs."

When asked if he has picked up on something that the team has been missing in the postseason, Smith said: "It's been a group effort. We haven't played well in all three phases. We've turned the ball over. We haven't protected well. We've given up big plays. We haven't coached well. We made some coaching decisions that, when we took a second look at it, didn't turn out well."

The Falcons have cruised in the regular season and have the fifth best record in the NFL since 2008, but they have no playoff wins to show for that success.

As mentioned above, the opponents the Falcons have faced in the playoffs have all made it to the Super Bowl. However, playoff wins will be the measuring stick for the Falcons because if they make it back there in 2012 it will be the teams fourth appearance in five years, and the Falcons will still be looking for that first playoff win in as many tries.

For more on the Falcons be sure to check out The Falcoholic. For more news and notes from around the NFL head over to SB Nation's NFL page.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.