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The Atlanta Falcons are still very much in the playoff hunt

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The Falcons are going to have to play a hell of a lot better to stick around.

if the season ended today, the Atlanta Falcons would be the #6 seed. Sadly, the season does not end today, and that makes fixing the team's issues a pressing matter.

I do think Dan Quinn and company have a long-term plan for this franchise, but much like the 2008 Falcons, their surprising early success means they're in the playoff hunt before they maybe anticipated being there. You can't sacrifice future gains for short-term lifts, and the Falcons wisely didn't give away draft picks or young players at the deadline to bolster their playoff hopes. That does mean they're going to have to take what they have now and mold it into a capable team, which looks pretty daunting at the moment.

Working in the team's favor is that relatively easy schedule, though the Vikings and Panthers add a significant degree of difficulty to the last seven games. They're also likely to be healthier than they've been in weeks coming out of the bye, and adding Leonard Hankerson back into the offense may give the whole team a small boost. Working against them, of course, is that they've looked out of sorts for the last month, and they still lack game-changing talent at a few positions on the roster. It'll be on Matt Ryan, the defense, and the coaching staff t o operate at a high level and push through a strong second half to give Atlanta a shot at a team like the Giants (oh, please, let it be the Giants).

The Falcons need, charitably, to go just above .500 the rest of the way to make sure they hold on to a Wild Card, and that's without a team like the Seahawks, Rams, or Eagles catching fire and making things interesting. The performance we saw against the 49ers isn't going to get that done, but this team is capable of better, and I do believe they'll be in the conversation until the end, likely as the sixth seed in the NFC.

How about you?