Vikings' loss opens path for Falcons to make Super Bowl history

The 2019 Super Bowl will be played in the Falcon's new home. David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire

While the folks up in Minneapolis fully expected their Minnesota Vikings to host this year's Super Bowl, it is now the Atlanta Falcons who are the next franchise with an opportunity to make Super Bowl home history.

No team has ever played a Super Bowl in it's own stadium. That will remain the same for a least another year after the Vikings lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday's NFC Championship game.

Super Bowl LIII in February of 2019 is set for Atlanta's newly-opened $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Falcons, who lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI in Houston, hope to make another run after Eagles beat them in this year's divisional round.

According to NFL statistics, only four teams have ever played a Super Bowl in their home state: the Oakland Raiders twice, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Los Angles Rams. Two of them won: The Raiders in Super Bowl XI, and the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.

Coach Dan Quinn fully expects his team to resolve some of the issues that plagued them this past season, particularly on the offensive side, and make another run at the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, who won the MVP a year ago, hopes to return to that level of play next season. The Falcons made, what could end up being, a significant addition by hiring veteran coach Greg Knapp as quarterbacks coach. The one-time Falcons offensive coordinator (2004-2006) could complement offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian with Knapp's experience in the West Coast offense. Plus Knapp already showed he could help bolster the play of an established, MVP quarterback when he worked with Peyton Manning in Denver.

Meanwhile, a fast and steadily rising Falcons' defense, which elevated its play under defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, could take another step in 2018 and make the Falcons that much more of a threat.

However, expect the Eagles to be the NFC front-runner going into next season after they made it all the way to the Super Bowl without quarterback Carson Wentz, who was considered the top MVP candidate before a season-ending ACL tear. The New Orleans Saints also seem likely to be early favorites to repeat as NFC South champs, provided Drew Brees remains at quarterback.

But don't discount the Falcons coming off a 10-6 season. Five of those losses this past season were to playoff teams: Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Saints, Buffalo Bills, and Vikings. In 2018, the Falcons have tough non-division road games at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay, but they also face the teams with the two worst records of 2017: at home against the New York Giants (3-13) and on the road against the Cleveland Browns (0-16).

Three of the four teams in the NFC South made the playoffs with the Saints (11-5), Panthers (11-5), and Falcons.