The Falcons hold the NFC’s No. 3 seed. The trick is getting to No. 2

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No. 2 would like a No. 2 seed, thanks very much. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

There’s still a way for the Atlanta Falcons not to make the playoffs. (I don’t see it happening, but it’s possible.) If we go on margin of victory — an old-school metric, but still a useful one — they’re the NFL’s second-best team. They’ve outscored opponents by 111 points, or 7.9 per game. Only New England (132 points, 9.4 per game) is better.

The Falcons can’t clinch the NFC South just by winning in Charlotte on Christmas Eve. New Orleans would have to beat Tampa Bay that day for it to be official. But, after losing to Dallas on Sunday night, the Buccaneers have fallen not just a game behind the Falcons but also behind Washington in the chase for the NFC’s second wild card. (At 10-4, the Giants have a lock on the first.) Tampa Bay can still make the playoffs, but it needs both the Redskins and the Packers to lose.

The Falcons need only to beat the Panthers and the Saints, neither of whom are above .500, both of whom the Falcons have already beaten. Win twice and they’re in as division champs. But the key game remaining for the local franchise will be played in Seattle on Saturday: Seahawks versus Cardinals.

With Sunday’s 41-13 victory over San Francisco, the Falcons climbed above Detroit, which lost to the Giants. The Falcons now hold the NFC’s No. 3 seed and the perks that would entail — a Round 1 game at home against the No. 6 seed, which could be Washington or one of the Bays. (Though getting Aaron Rodgers in the Dome would recall grim memories of January 2011.) The bigger perk would be to jump Seattle for the second seed, which would mean no Round 1 game and no trip to CenturyLink Field for Round 2.

Honesty compels me to note that I don’t think the Cardinals, who are 2-5-1 since Oct. 17, can win in Seattle. I’m all but certain the Seahawks won’t lose to San Francisco on New Year’s Day. (I just saw the 49ers play.) The no-call against Richard Sherman on Oct. 16 stands as the biggest play of the Falcons’ season. Had he been flagged for pass interference and Matt Bryant then delivered the winning field goal, the Falcons would be 10-4 to Seattle’s 8-5-1. What the College Football Playoff folks say also resonates in the professional ranks: Every week counts.

Further reading: There could be a trophy in the Falcons’ future.

Still further: Fessin’ up: I was wrong about Kyle Shanahan.

Reader Comments 0

25 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

Any team with a stronger defense than Atlanta will knock the birds out of the playoffs. If they face teams that are equal to the birds on defense.....Atlanta will outscore them in the playoffs. Atlanta's defense is getting better each game but maybe not good enough for a strong team. Regardless of the outcome this year, Atlanta is looking up. Atlanta fans can look forward, finally, with the possibility of a championship team in the future.

RonnieTurner
RonnieTurner

Atlanta will win it last two games tampa bay will split it last games

candlin14
candlin14

ATL is in with just one more win. TB will not win their last two games. I think they will split. I also think ATL will split. 


I really do not care what seed this team is. Each team we could possibly face can play football. It would be nice playing at home, but even the birds falter at home.


This team has played well on the road this season and I think they can beat anyone of the teams we face in the playoffs. GB will be the toughest and just like 2011 GB is hitting their hot streak at the perfect time. If ATL can continue putting up points they have a chance.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

I'm with Walter, the Falcons still have serious business ahead and either Division opponent or both is capable of taking them out. What worries me more is the playoffs. I'd feel a lot better about this team if they had knocked off the Chiefs. Collectively, those winnable losses to the Seahawks, Chargers, Eagles, and Chiefs really sting.


The defense is playing with a lot more pass rush, speed, and overall aggressiveness, but it's not where it needs to be yet to go deep in the playoffs. Hope I'm proven wrong.

DailyCommuterGuy
DailyCommuterGuy

You mean the one where Julio used hands to the face to get separation? That one?

Railroadtracgang
Railroadtracgang

@DailyCommuterGuy Sherman was beat and beat bad so he tackled him. Pathetic. Actually I hope we have to go back to Seattle and whip them on their own field in front of all those sasquatch fans

GymAnalytics315
GymAnalytics315

 I'd rather be 2 or 4.  The number 4 seed would likely have to travel to Dallas (unless of course 6 beats 3).  I'd rather take my chances at Dallas than at Seattle in January.  We don't want the # 3 seed, especially if that means facing Green Bay in Rd 1.

candlin14
candlin14

@GymAnalytics315 @Paul-jr 

Well the pick 2 would have never happened if Quinn doesnt pass on the FG and also pass on the PAT following the first touchdown during the comeback. Should have never had to go for 2 on that final TD.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Rise Up Dirty Birds!!!!.....KeKe is our "Dirty Bird"

TideDawg
TideDawg

I never really cared for the cry "Rise Up" or "Dirty Dogs". Rise up seems better suited for a political protest. Dirty Dogs just doesn't seem to fit today's Falcons. They play football not politics. Atlanta appears to be building a class program and "Dirty" is not what they want to be......in my opinion.

Sbmont01
Sbmont01

@TideDawg  "Rise Up" is great because it's a nod to the history of Atlanta- being rebuilt after it was burned by Sherman in the Civil War, like a Phoenix rising from it's ashes. The Phoenix is on a lot of the city decals, I think it's the official bird, or something like that. Regardless, it's awesome.

DawgNole
DawgNole

MB: "There’s still a way for the Atlanta Falcons not to make the playoffs, but that would entail them losing their final two games. I don’t think they’ll lose either one."

______________

Ever heard of "revenge games" and "playing spoiler"? That's what those last two teams will have going for them vs the Falcons. That and ATL's firmly entrenched reputation for folding in crunch time.

I wouldn't be putting these final two in the bank just yet.

Archangel
Archangel

@DawgNole Those are just words people use, it has nothing to do with who wins the game.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@DawgNole You got that right Dawg. Dreamers already have them in the Super Bowl.....reality only gives them an outside chance of being there.

TOJacket
TOJacket

You're not a Falcons fan are you TD?

TOJacket
TOJacket

DawgNole doesn't want them to win because then he couldn't whine like a woman anymore about no championships in ATL

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Archangel 

BS!

The words didn't make themselves up. They're borne of year after year of actual results on the field. Happens every season at all levels.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket 

Shut your yap, woman hater. Did oh:io foster your perverted and thinly veiled disdain for the opposite sex?

I've been pulling intensely for the Falcons since their birth in 1966.

And how could I whine about "no championships in ATL" when there has in fact been one ('95 Braves)???

DUH--dumb as dirt.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@candlin14

I do indeed--and if everyone did the same, maybe they'd cut back on them a bit, so we could watch a 2-hour game in 3 hours instead of 4.

Walter Hatchett
Walter Hatchett

Falcons defense still has a lot a work to do. They could easily lose one or both of the next two games. Hopefully they will Rise Up.