On one hand, the Falcons’ path to the postseason is a simple one, as we’ve chronicled over the last couple of weeks. If Atlanta beats Carolina, they are automatically in the playoffs. If they lose, they can still make it if Seattle drops their game against the Arizona Cardinals, but Seattle is at home and that does seem unlikely.
For all that, there are still many different ways this weekend could unfold, with accompanying weird scenarios happening. The Falcons are most likely to either miss the playoffs or end up against the Rams, but there’s a non-zero chance of them facing the Saints, Panthers, or even Vikings if things get sufficiently freaky on Sunday.
This is a handy graphic. There's 24 possible combinations for the Falcons:— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) December 26, 2017
-10 scenarios have Falcons at Rams
-8 scenarios have Falcons eliminated
-4 scenarios have Falcons at Saints
-1 scenario has Falcons at Panthers
-1 scenario has Falcons at Vikings https://t.co/S4yTWj148a
Bluntly, you shouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the Panthers and Vikings scenarios, because the former is based on Tampa Bay beating New Orleans and San Francisco beating Los Angeles, while the latter has the Bucs beating the Saints, the 49ers beating the Rams, the Bears beating the Vikings, and the Seahawks losing to the Cardinals. That would be downright wacky, in either scenario and while anything’s possible it’s not particularly likely.
The good news is that there are many scenarios in which the Falcons get in, and beating Carolina at home and doing so outright is really not all that far-fetched, assuming Atlanta doesn’t play yet another deeply listless game. The Cardinals have also battled Seattle well in recent years, so it is not an absolute lock that Seattle wins. Hopefully, the Falcons will get their postseason shot to erase a lot of mediocre games this season, one way or the either.
At the end of the day, though, prepare to play the Rams or watch the playoffs without your favorite team. Those remain the likeliest outcomes by far.