Playoff scenarios in the NFL can be complex and difficult to parse. For the Falcons, though, the playoff picture could not possibly be simpler. If they win Sunday, they're 7-9 and the #4 seed in the NFC. If they lose, they're out and the 7-8-1 Panthers are the #4 seed.
That simplicity means there's no ambiguity about the stakes of this game or what the outcome means. A win puts the Falcons in against either the Cardinals or Lions, both teams Atlanta might actually be able to beat at home in the Georgia Dome. It's easy to get ahead of ourselves with this line of thinking, but the possibility remains, and that's a minor miracle given the way this season has unfolded.
Figuring out the Falcons' matchup is a little tougher, but the Cardinals or Seahawks would appear to be the team's opponents, with an appreciative hat tip toward 1978 FALCONS FAN on Twitter. The Falcons would obviously like to square off against a Cardinals team with a horrible quarterback situation than the Seahawks, but they have no control over that.
What the Falcons can control is what happens against the Panthers. They'll be the first 7-9 playoff team since the 2010 Seahawks if they can manage it, and anything that happens from there is delicious gravy on the playoff pot roast. I'll be rooting hard for the berth.
What's your prediction for Sunday?