As if the afternoon-into-evening hadn’t been splendid enough, what with the Atlanta Falcons storming to a 38-13 lead over the Saints before a festive crowd in what was billed as the Georgia Dome’s final regular-season game, the night went nicely, too. Green Bay beat Detroit, which means the Falcons aren’t likely to see the Packers, who’ve won six in a row, until the NFC title game, which would be staged here if the qualifiers are the local team and the Packers.
Detroit has to open against Seattle. If the Lions win, the Falcons would get the Packers-Giants winner in Round 2, which in the grand scheme wouldn’t be a break. But the Lions, who’ve lost three in a row and been outscored on the season, aren’t apt to prevail at CenturyLink Field, which would mean the Falcons would play the Seahawks in Round 2. And there seems no reason to fear the Seahawks any longer.
Seattle was 3-3 over its final six games. It was 3-4-1 on the road. On Sunday it trailed San Francisco, which had already fired its general manager and would soon fire its coach, by 11 points. The offense isn’t what it was — Marshawn Lynch is long gone; Russell Wilson has had moments of great struggle — and even the great defense has begun to slip.
Arizona scored 34 points in the game that shifted the NFC’s No. 2 seed to the Falcons. The 49ers had 23 on Sunday. These aren’t the Seahawks of 2012-2013-2014. Without Earl Thomas, they aren’t the Seahawks of Oct. 16, 2016. I don’t see them winning here. As weird as it sounds, the Falcons should root for Seattle to beat Detroit; you’d rather see Pete Carroll’s sagging crew in the Division Round than either Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning.
I do, however, believe Dallas could lose its Division Round game to the Giants, who’ve already beaten the Cowboys twice, and especially to the Packers. If that happens, the last football game in the Dome could be for the NFC championship.
This might seem cart-before-horse stuff, but it really isn’t. The playoff grid is set. Somebody’s going to win the NFC title. The Falcons have a clear path. They also have a very good team. This could happen, folks.