This might be an absurd exercise to be indulging in four weeks into the season, but hey. Absurdity abounds here at The Falcoholic.
At this point, the Falcons have a three game lead on the rest of the division, and a four game lead on the Saints. That's not insurmountable, but it's truly excellent for four games into the season. To figure out how the Falcons could lock up a playoff spot in the least amount of time, I turn to math and irresponsible projection.
Let's start with the Falcons schedule over the next five games. They play Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia, Dallas and New Orleans. There are five very winnable games there, but the Eagles and Cowboys will certainly be tough, and the Saints may have righted the ship by then. Let's assume the Falcons win three of those games, which would put them at 7-2.
Now the rest of the division. Assuming they continue on their merry ways to irrelevance (which they probably won't), each of them could be 2-7 or worse. That...still wouldn't be enough to lock up a playoff spot for the Falcons. It would take the Falcons reeling off five straight wins and the rest of the division losing every single game between now and Week 10 for the Falcons to lock it up.
Ideally, the Falcons would run to 9-or-10-0 and the rest of the division would have at least seven losses, which would give Atlanta a nice six week cruising period. That's not real likely, though, and the NFC South will probably come down to the last two or three weeks as usual. And, of course, a 4-0 does not guarantee a post-season spot.
Today's standings, as a reminder:
Project the NFC South for us.
*Note: I'm horrible at math and worse at projection.