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NFL Playoff Picture 2014: Falcons Win Twice Or They Go Home

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

By now, most of you are likely aware that the Falcons have but one clear path into the postseason. For the rest of you, and those curious about how the NFC South might shake out, I thought we would review that road, plus bonus odds for the NFC South playoff picture.

The skinny is that the Falcons need to win their next two games and they're guaranteed a playoff spot. That's because they'll defeat the Saints and Panthers along the way, ensuring neither team can finish with a better record than Atlanta, and the Falcons will have the tiebreaker due to their insane 6-0 NFC South record. Shy of that, it's essentially impossible, because the Panthers and Saints currently boast better records and, if all three teams went 1-1, New Orleans would be in.

For the Saints, a win in Week 16 against the Falcons would put them in an excellent position, particularly because the Falcons host the Panthers in the Georgia Dome in Week 17 and could easily play spoiler. The Panthers need the Saints to drop their last two games and then beat the Falcons in Week 17 to seal their spot in the playoffs.

In essence, Atlanta controls its own destiny. If they lose even one game, we'll all start taking a harder look at the draft and speculating about the next Falcons head coach, because the odds will be heavily against the team at this point. That means this upcoming Falcons-Saints game functions as a potential NFC South Championship Game, something not lost on Saints fan and prophet Ralph Malbrough:

Here are the updated playoff odds for the NFC South, courtesy of NumberFire.

NFC South:
  1. New Orleans Saints - 54.06%
  2. Atlanta Falcons - 25.84%
  3. Carolina Panthers - 20.10%
  4. Tampa Bay Bucs - 0.00%

I envy teams like the Patriots and Colts who are already in, and teams like the Buccaneers and Titans who are out and already planning for 2015. It's the limbo that gets you.

How does this one shake out?