With two games remaining the Falcons are in great shape to make the postseason for the first time since their 2012 run.
*burns hand reaching into the fireplace to knock on the wood*
Obviously, the main focus should be on Atlanta’s upcoming division matchups, but I can’t help my mind from wandering towards the team’s potential playoff matchups. At this point in the season, fans like to argue which opponent they’d rather face in a do-or-die scenario.
Keeping in that spirit, I wanted to power rank the Falcons’ potential playoff opponents. First, let’s lay out a few guidelines.
These rankings are made based on the current playoff standings (but I will include a few different teams with wildcard possibilities). Frankly, I’m too lazy to try and calculate every possible situation. Location won’t play a factor in this; I’m just going to analyze the team itself and not consider whether Atlanta would be home or away. These rankings will start with the team the Falcons would most want to see and progress to the team they’d least want to see.
I’m going to put some research into this, but this is completely opinionated. As such, please feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below.
Let’s get rolling.
No. 8 – Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have a very slim chance of making the postseason, but if they do, the Falcons should love this matchup. Minnesota’s offense is lifeless. Even if Adrian Peterson can resemble his former self, the Vikings would be one-dimensional at best. They do boast one of the NFL’s more talented defensive units, but Atlanta has proven time and again it can score against elite groups. If these two teams do meet, it could end up along the lines of a 31-13 victory.
No. 7 – Washington Redskins: On paper, these two teams slightly resemble each other. Atlanta is No. 2 in total offense and Washington is No. 3. The Falcons are No. 25 in total defense while the Redskins sit at No. 29. This might look like it has the makings of a high-scoring affair, and it could become one, but the Falcons have proven to be the much more consistent team. Atlanta’s offense should be able to move the ball easily against Washington, and the Redskins appear to be more prone to lapses on both sides.
No. 6 – Detroit Lions: Nobody should overlook the fact that the Lions are still a dangerous team, although all of the talk has been about Green Bay, but they aren’t that dangerous. Despite the notion that Jim Bob Cooter has created an offensive juggernaut, the Lions average just 21.5 points per game - .1 points higher than Denver. On top of that, Detroit is really banged up at this point and would definitely be limping into the playoffs. Defensively, they don’t have a true strength or weakness against the pass or the run, but the Falcons’ diversity would allow them to attack anywhere.
No. 5 – New York Giants: We all have fresh memories of that abysmal 2-point performance the last time the Falcons face the Giants in the playoffs, but this is an entirely different scenario. New York’s defense isn’t close to the one that locked down Atlanta that year. The Giants’ defensive strength lies in their secondary, but the Falcons should be able to move the ball on the ground and take advantage of matchups in the passing game. Offensively, Odell Beckham Jr. scares the hell out of me in this matchup. I could see him having an 8-catch, 175-yard, 2-touchdown day against Alford, but the rest of the squad isn’t too frightening.
Odell Beckham's touchdown is the difference. Cowboys lose their first game since Week 1.#DallasCowboys #GiantsPride #NYGvsDAL pic.twitter.com/B8nDVp20oI— The Fanatics View (@thefanaticsview) December 12, 2016
No. 4 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes, Atlanta went took a trip down to Florida and thoroughly whipped Tampa Bay on Thursday night in a game that looked to effectively end the Bucs’ playoff hopes. Despite that loss, however, Tampa Bay has clawed back and is nipping at Atlanta’s heels for the division race. The Falcons are a team that should match up well with the Bucs, but they look like a focused, motivated squad that would like nothing more than to end our season early. This is less about the teams on paper and more about a potential revenge factor.
No. 3 – Seattle Seahawks: The popular belief is that even though the Falcons would likely have to travel to Seattle for this matchup, they already did that once before and should have come away with a victory. I’m not here to be a pessimist, but keep in mind that Atlanta did not, in fact, actually win that game, and in the playoffs only wins and losses matter. The Falcons only scored in one quarter. I think Atlanta is a much better team now than it was when these two squads met before, but the Seahawks are always a very tough out in the playoffs. I’d rather have someone else do the dirty work and get an upset win over these guys.
No. 2 – Dallas Cowboys: In the Cowboys’ two losses, the Giants’ defense played a major role. New York held Dallas’ run game in check, forced the Cowboys to kick field goals instead of touchdowns and made the big plays when they mattered. Now, I don’t think this is a strategy the Falcons can replicate. I mean, with the Cowboys’ offensive line, this matchup could be a much worse version of the Philadelphia game. Instead, I think Atlanta should turn this into an up-tempo shootout. The Cowboys’ strength on offense starts on the ground and then relies on short-to-intermediate routes to pick up the remaining yards. If the Falcons can score quickly and efficiently the way they have the past two weeks and turn this into a 21-7 or 24-14 game early on, it could take Dallas out of its comfort zone as it will have to conserve some clock and take more chances.
No. 1 – Green Bay Packers: I still have nightmares sometimes about Aaron Rodgers carving up Atlanta’s defense while that State Farm goblin says “discount double check” somewhere off in the distance. The Falcons beat the Packers in a thrilling matchup this season, but I want no part of this squad in the playoffs. Green Bay had several issues when it came to Atlanta and Rodgers still nearly put the team on his back and carried them to a victory. Some quarterbacks just go to a different level against the Falcons *cough, Drew Brees, cough* and Rodgers is definitely one of them. Atlanta could very well win a rematch with this team, but there is no squad I’d rather avoid than the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers vs Falcons 2010 Divisional Round...may be the best single performance I've ever seen from him... https://t.co/SJowEgPVhT— Ayo (@AyoWindapo) October 23, 2016