The NFC’s No. 2 seed? With a little help, it could be the Falcons

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, right, and Earl Thomas (obscured) break up a pass intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks beat the Falcons 26-24. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

This can happen when you play in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Given that the Atlanta Falcons aren’t assured of winning the NFC South — they’re ahead of Tampa Bay via the record-against-common-opponents tiebreaker — this might seem like cart-before-horse stuff. But let’s be honest: The Falcons, who are 8-5, have three games remaining, two at home, none against a team that can finish with a winning record. If they don’t win the division, it’s their own darn fault.

At this moment, both the Falcons and Buccaneers would qualify for the playoffs. The difference between qualifying as division winner and wild card is that the division champ gets to start the postseason at home, which is a big deal. But there’s an even bigger deal in play.

At this moment, the Falcons are the NFC’s No. 4 seed. Unless it loses its next three games, Dallas will finish as the No. 1 seed. At 9-4, Detroit holds the No. 2 seed, but its grip — no pun intended — is tenuous: Matthew Stafford tore a ligament in the middle finger of his throwing hand Sunday and the Lions must finish against the Giants, the Cowboys and the Packers. The first two of those games will be on the road.

At 8-4-1, Seattle is a half-game ahead of the Falcons. The Seahawks’ remaining games: Home against Los Angeles and Arizona, then at San Francisco. The Rams are terrible. The 49ers are worse. The Cardinals are 5-7-1.

Seattle has been two teams this season. It’s 6-0 at home, 2-4-1 on the road. In three road games, it hasn’t managed a touchdown. On Sunday in Green Bay, it managed one — to cut the Packers’ lead to 31-10. The Falcons know what can happen at the end of a game at CenturyLink Field, having been undone by the no-call on Richard Sherman on Oct. 16. Take the 12th Man out of the equation and Seattle is nothing special. If the Falcons are the No. 2 seed, they wouldn’t be headed to CenturyLink. The Seahawks would have to play here.

It’s hard to imagine any circumstance in which Seattle loses to the 49ers, even on the road. It’s impossible to envision the Seahawks losing on Thursday to the Rams, whom we just watched fall to the Falcons 42-14 after trailing 42-0 on a day when Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu didn’t play. The only real hope that Seattle will lose is the Cardinals’ game on Christmas Eve. The two tied 6-all in October, but that was in Phoenix.

If Seattle somehow does slip and the Lions wobble enough to lose twice, the Falcons would be the No. 2 seed, which comes with a Round 1 bye. That’s provided they win out, which they should. (Games remaining: 49ers here, Panthers there, Saints here.) And since you asked: Even if the Falcons and Bucs both finish 11-5, the local team will get the seeding nod on the common-opponents deal.

This is heady stuff, yes. Now for the sobering part: Had Sherman been flagged and had Eric Berry not scored on his pick-two, the Falcons might well be 10-3. Meaning they wouldn’t just be playing for the No. 2 seed; they’d have a real chance at No. 1.

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
dawg4u
dawg4u

Good column Mark!

TideDawg
TideDawg

As far as the Falcons finishing......expect nothing and you won't be disappointed. They are still the Falcons of old...with a glimmer of hope. However, "Hope" doesn't win games.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@TideDawg I love the Falcons of old.....I expect good things because I'm an adult and can handle disappointment....I am a Tech fan ya know.

brushback69
brushback69

@TOJacket @TideDawg 

I like this response because so many folks just simply cannot deal with a loss and come unglued and jaded...

Eric_C
Eric_C

I considered this to be not impossible until seeing the Seahawks schedule - no way they will lose any of those games.  Also, I will be surprised if the Falcons win at Carolina.  They rarely play a good game there any more.  ESPN's FPI probability for the Falcons winning out is something like 31%. 


I'm expecting the Bucs and Falcons to finish tied at 10-6 with the Bucs losing at Dallas and Falcons losing at Carolina.  Can anyone say what that would do to the tiebreak situation if it pans out like that?  I know the Falcons common opponent's W/L is better right now but not sure what happens to tiebreakers if they lose to the Panthers. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Eric_C They will have to start a fire with sticks and burn a rope into to raise their flag.

Happy_Smith
Happy_Smith

We'll never be talking about the #1 seed until we have an NFL Size BRUISING Back to Control the Clock when and if we have the lead...


... and we have NFL Size D'Lineman!  Beasley is a Linebacker and not a DE.


The Rams we're phoning it in on Sunday...

teddymonds
teddymonds

Agreed on the Rams, an underwhelming victory if ever there was one. The Falcon should not figure to go 3-0. The Saints and Panthers will both be waiting for them.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Just  win baby and let the chips fall where they may.

jcdocpc
jcdocpc

Even having this discussion is a major plus over last year! We had to have had the most gosh awful schedule in the league and we are still in contention to make the playoffs..and was close in every game with a still flawed roster. What I'm saying is enjoy the ride this year however far we go..Ain't no team in the league will want to see Atlanta on their schedule next year. Man it felt good to say that!

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

I think yesterday's game was more a reflection of  how gawd-awful the Rams are that it was anything else.  Whatta mess that team is.  Maybe it's fatigue.  The Kardashians should be more than half-way through the roster by now. 


And they just re-upped both the HC and GM for two more years. Good luck with that.


We didn't run the ball particularly well and LA stopped itself more than our D stopped them.  Kudos to Jones and Beasely though.  Both were impressive.


I like the suggestion below to use Taylor Gabriel as a punt returner.











TOJacket
TOJacket

@CardiganBoy Understand the Gabriel as PR but Eric Weems is very good at decision making and as a PR you have to be experienced....note the KO return guy for LA on the opening KO....he was a replacement.

Jackalope
Jackalope

@CardiganBoy - Great comment, although I guess you've heard by now that LA fired the coach.

candlin14
candlin14

@TOJacket @CardiganBoy 

Come on TOJacket. Weems had his 3rd fair catch of the season within the 5 yard line. The one in seattle at the 2 yard line is hard to beat. 

We need to put Gabriel on PR. WE could use a ST TD for once. Havent had one since Hester returned a punt against the Bucs. That was a long time ago.

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

The killer-instinct was good to see yesterday, especially from the defense.  LA crapped their pants on the first play.  

SaulK
SaulK

ATL should win out and get the #2 seed behind dallas. In the playoffs, dallas is beatable---their QB will fold with playoff pressure.

RickinWarnerRobins
RickinWarnerRobins

@SaulK The likely scenario is that the Dallas QB will rip the Falcons piss-poor pass defense to shreds and score pretty much at will.  The Falcons can't keep giving up 200-300 yards passing and expect to end up in the Super Bowl...it's just not going to happen.

Hank Kimball
Hank Kimball

Falcons SHOULD win out but that's a big SHOULD as we know our team. Biggest concern is Panthers in Charlotte they just might somehow get their game on and try to mess up our playoff chances however, I am doubting that and think the Falcons will win out!!!

Jackalope
Jackalope

@Hank Kimball - I agree.  You just can't ever overlook a division opponent.  Too much bad blood there.

candlin14
candlin14

Once again Mark Brsdley is talking about theoretical BS. How about focus on one game and one week at a time. All 3 teams the Falcons play are capable of beating this football team. Especially the 2 division opponents.

Let's stop relying on luck to get places and start relying on winning to prove a point.

Hopeless in ATL
Hopeless in ATL

@candlin14 You talk theoretical BS in every post.  "Stop relying on luck..." (?), this guy sucks, that guy sucks, "god-awful" wasted pick, poor coaching, need to do this , need to do that, on and on and on, ad nauseam. 

candlin14
candlin14

@Hopeless in ATL @candlin14 

Head coaching has been terrible. You do not think Taylor Gabriel should be returning punts? You think Alford was worth a 4 year extension or the GM is worth a 3 year extension? Cmon meat!

I don't see the Giants using anyone else but Beckham on punt returns, I dont see KC using anyone else but Tyreek Hill on punt returns. Believe it or not, 7 points from a kick return could come in helpful one of these days. 

What else you want to talk about? 

TOJacket
TOJacket

@candlin14 @Hopeless in ATL Hope they work him there when we have a lead...I was a PR in High school and it can be somewhat terrifying at times, I was a average white boy but a great decision maker and never fumbled. It must be scary as he!! to return them in the NFL !!

candlin14
candlin14

@TOJacket @candlin14 @Hopeless in ATL 

You are right. Very tough position to play but Weems is not the sharpest tool in the shed when having to determine if a punt should be fair caught or let it bounce. His fair catch at the 4 or 5 yard line yesterday was brutal. Still wasnt as bad as his Seattle Fair Catch on the 2

TOJacket
TOJacket

@candlin14 @TOJacket @Hopeless in ATL I always wanted the guy who wouldn't fumble....that's the most important IMO. I will say this...if I knew he was as skilled as Weems, he would get a shot for sure. Some guys don't care for that responsibility.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

First. Go Falcons. Merry Christmas Mark.