The Panthers and Saints managed to stay a game ahead of the Falcons in the race for the NFC South, but the team’s path to the playoffs still became easier thanks to Sunday’s action. How, you ask? You can thank the Rams for that one.
With their utter shellacking of the Seahawks, the Rams essentially gift-wrapped a playoff spot for the Falcons if Atlanta can just win two of their final games. That’s because Seattle is now 8-6 and don’t have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Falcons, meaning the best they can possibly finish the year is 10-6. So long as Atlanta finishes with an identical or better record, they are going to make it to the big dance.
Given how awful Seattle looked in this game against Los Angeles, it’s an open question whether they’ll even win both of their final games, which would potentially make things even easier for Atlanta. The Detroit Lions (8-6) and the Dallas Cowboys (7-6, about to play) are also lurking in the picture now, but Atlanta also has a tiebreaker over both those teams.
That takes a ton of pressure off the Falcons these last three games, but they can’t afford to take anything for granted. Winning out gives them the NFC South and home field in their first matchup, and they would have a very small chance of getting a first round bye, depending on what Minnesota does over the next two weeks. The last thing the Falcons can afford to do is fritter away this remarkably simple road to the postseason, especially after they tried so hard to do so earlier this year.