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NFL Playoff Picture, Week 14: Falcons Still Airborne

The Falcons remain in the playoff hunt in the NFC, as does three-quarters of the NFC South.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC playoff picture is deeply unsettled, with plenty of quality teams with winning records still looking for a ticket to the dance. The NFC playoff picture should be equally exciting, but maybe not for all the right reasons.

That starts with the NFC West, where the Cardinals were running away with it until Carson Palmer's catastrophic injury saw Drew Stanton making starts, which has now led to back-to-back losses. The Seahawks are crawling back into the division race, while the 49ers are just puttering along at the edge of the wild card.

The NFC North and East are two-team races, with the lesser of the Cowboys-Eagles and Packers-Lions races potentially hanging on for playoff spots.

The NFC South is where the action is, though. Only one team is going to make the playoffs out of this motley crew, and the Panthers are somehow in the race at 3-8-1. Here's a look at what needs to happen for the Falcons to clinch.

  • If the Falcons beat the Saints and finish with an identical record, Atlanta's in due to division record tiebreaker
  • If the Falcons don't beat the Saints but the two teams finish with an identical record and the Saints' don't match the Falcons' divisional record, the Falcons win the crown based on that tiebreaker
  • If the Falcons simply finish better than the Saints, they are quite obviously in
After that it gets tougher. Common opponents is a tiebreaker the Saints would win as of today, and every tiebreaker down the list from there will be partially determined by the last four games of the season. What's obvious, then, is that the Falcons hold their destiny in their hands.

How do you think the division winds up settling?