The Atlanta Falcons needed either the Minnesota Vikings or the Seattle Seahawks to lose yesterday. Atlanta would lose in a direct tie-breaker against both teams, and was two games back with only three games left.
Atlanta won, but so did Minnesota and Seattle. How is Atlanta still in it? Lets check out the rules.
Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
- Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
- Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
- Strength of victory.
- Strength of schedule.
- Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
- Best net points in conference games.
- Best net points in all games.
- Best net touchdowns in all games.
- Coin toss
When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.
We move past one, as all three teams are in different divisions. We most past two, as we did not play Seattle this year. We move past three, as Atlanta would be tied with wins in the conference if they win out and the two remaining teams lose out. We do not have four common games between the three, so the fourth option does not help either.
Math is not our strong point here at the Falcoholic, but Atlanta's remaining opponents are the Panthers and the Saints (19-8 before the MNF game) while the Vikings play the Giants and Packers (16-12). Atlanta's current strength of victory is .388, while Minnesota's is .403. The next consideration is strength of schedule, where Minnesota has an even more sizable lead of .490 to .451.
Would wins and losses even out those numbers? According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the team believes so.
In that scenario, Seattle will be in as the fifth seed (first wild card). The tiebreaker for the Falcons-Vikings would be the sixth one listed below for ties between three or more clubs: Strength of schedule. In a three-way tiebreaker, the Falcons believe they have not been eliminated. They have not been told by the NFL they were eliminated. Falcons believe they are still mathematically alive.
There we have it. The mathematically alive Atlanta Falcons have a narrow shot. Atlanta needs to beat both the Panthers and the Saints, but get the chance to play both games at home. The Seahawks also have two games against the tough Rams and Cardinals. The Vikings play the inconsistent Giants at home, and finish out the season in Green Bay.
Far from the clearest path to the playoffs, but this should certainly give us some rooting interests on Sunday.