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Atlanta’s late season matchups against the Saints and Panthers loom as their most important games

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Atlanta has to overcome its NFC South opponents to make the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Earlier this week, I mentioned that rolling through the NFC South was the best way for the Falcons to return to the playoffs this season. Given that, their two final games of the season loom as their most important games of the season.

Now, I recognize that when you’re 4-3 and playing like a less-than-elite football team, every game is critically important. What makes the Week 16 road tilt against the Saints and the Week 17 home game against the Panthers particularly important, as SB Nation alludes to in the story below, is that they may offer a genuine chance for one of those teams to seize the NFC South, assuming all three teams stay on about the same trajectory they’re on now.

If the Falcons can hang in against one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, starting with this Sunday’s matchup against the Panthers on the road, wins in the last two weeks will be hugely impactful. We shouldn’t expect Atlanta to coast to a playoff berth with a tougher division and plenty of their own struggles, but I think it’s reasonable to expect them to avoid a freefall and be at least on the fringe of the playoff picture until the end.

Go ahead and circle those two games on your calendar. Hopefully they’ll be as important as they look like they may be today.