As per usual, the NFC is the superior conference in 2017, with a lot of quality squads hovering around .500. The AFC, meanwhile, is basically the Patriots, Chiefs, Jaguars, and Steelers, and only one of those teams is surprising.
That means the 5-4 Falcons have their work cut out for them to make the playoff field in the conference, as they’re currently behind the likes of the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers for a Wild Card spot. They’re better-equipped than a deeply injured Seattle team and Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys team to make the playoffs, but the Panthers are looking like they’ll cruise into a playoff spot unless a reckoning shows up soon. Fortunately, Atlanta’s path to the playoffs is still a pretty easy one, involving as it does a single, potent word.
A win against the Panthers the second time around could give Atlanta a critically important tiebreaker over them at the end of the year. Wins over the Seahawks and Vikings would give the Falcons a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over both, which could become a factor with both of those teams, but particularly Seattle. Wins over New Orleans give the Falcons a chance to claw their way back into the divisional
Of course, unless you win out, you’re still relying on teams like the Panthers, Seahawks, and even Cowboys losing games against their opponents, particularly those they’ve had in common with Atlanta. The Panthers ungratefully did not do so against the Dolphins last night, which leaves us looking ahead and hoping that there are slides coming for our least favorite NFC South opponents.
None of that will matter if the Falcons can’t win at least four of their last seven games, and probably more. The Dallas game was an excellent start, but for the moment, that’s all it is.