The Atlanta Falcons are bad now, and that means the NFC South is lost to them, and the playoffs very well might be. This stinks, everyone.
Still, time marches inexorably on, robbing us of our youth, our vigor, and gradually those we love and cherish. We are left to pick up the pieces of our fading lives, and to look over the NFC South standings without vomiting. We must never vomit.
NFC South Standings
I have to applaud the Carolina Panthers. Beating the Saints by three is no great feat, but this is a divisional game, and when you're 12-0 people can't say crap about your football team. They've simply been one of the NFL's best all season, Cam Newton does enough to win games by himself at times, and the defense (with the exception of that Saints game) has been remarkably sturdy all year. They're great, and we have to just tip our caps to them in a resigned way.
The Buccaneers clawed their way up here on the back of some stronger-than-expected defensive performances, Jameis Winston's consistently solid play, and Doug Martin's renaissance season. Whether they stay here or not, they're clearly going to be a force in the NFC South for years now, and that's what makes it even more disappointing that the Falcons have been so bad during one of the lowest points in the NFC South's history.
The Falcons are just embarrassing right now. They've lost five in a row, and while many of them have been close games, they've put forth mediocre offensive efforts riddled with turnovers for a long time now. They deserve this drop, and all they can do now is try to salvage the season and find an identity heading into a (hopefully) (please?) brighter 2016. They're not getting blown out on a regular basis, so the only comforting notion is that they're not as far away as it might feel.
The Saints, despite another game effort, are effectively dead. Sean Payton won't be back next year, I'd wager, and I'm not sure whether Drew Brees will be. They'll be back, I'm sure, but they could very well be years from relevance in the NFC South.