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Atlanta Falcons playoff picture 2016: Playoff berth guaranteed with Christmas Eve victory against Carolina Panthers

Fact: This cheerleader hates the Panthers and so do you

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have boldly faced the NFC's toughest schedule this season. There's been ups, there's been downs, and there's been grabby shenanigans. (I'm looking at you, Richard Sherman.) But alas, the playoffs are drawing near. The Washington Redskins just lost to Cam Newton's crappy team the Carolina Panthers.

In five days the Falcons will play the Panthers in Carolina. It's always nice to beat the Panthers, especially on their home turf. But this game will have special significance. You see, if the Falcons win Saturday, they will officially cement their first playoff berth since 2012. (That's, of course, a game we'd all like to forget, and I won't make you relive it now.)

The ideal scenario involves a win Saturday and then a win at home against the Saints in week 17. That'd get the Falcons the division crown and possibly make them the NFC's second seed. In that scenario, we don't have to play a round one game and let's be honest, rest and relaxation does this team well. Certainly the Falcons don't want to limp into the playoffs as a wild card team, so a win Saturday shouldn't cause them to take their foot off the gas, but a guaranteed playoff birth would be an excellent early Christmas gift.

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