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NFC playoff picture: The conference is crowded and the Falcons are still in the hunt

Atlanta’s the #10 seed as things stand today, but with some wins and some help, they can push their way in over the coming weeks.

New York Giants v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Incredibly, the Falcons are still technically alive in the NFC playoff hunt despite a 1-4 start to the 2018 season. Taking care of business at last and winning two in a row has helped them a great deal, but they’ve also been aided by some of the consensus best teams in the NFC heading into 2018 largely disappointing thus far. The Eagles, Falcons and Vikings were supposed to join the Rams in being juggernauts, but due to injuries, ineffectiveness and poor luck, all three are hovering around .500 right now.

So where do our Falcons stand? Right now, they’re effectively the 10th seed in the NFC, needing to leapfrog four teams (all with a record within one game of Atlanta) to actually have a shot at the dance.

Hat tip to SB Nation for this one.

NFC playoff picture

1. Rams (8-0), (5-0)

2. Saints (6-1), (4-1)

3. Washington (5-2), (5-1)

4. ​Bears (4-3), (3-1)

5. Panthers (5-2), (3-2)

6. Seahawks (4-3), (3-2)

In the hunt...

Vikings (4-3-1), (3-2-1)

Packers (3-3-1), (2-3-1)

Eagles (4-4), (2-3)

Falcons (3-4), (3-2)

Buccaneers (3-4), (2-2)

Cowboys (3-4), (2-3)

Lions (3-4), (1-3)

Anything can happen, blah blah blah, but the Falcons are essentially praying that they keep winning and enough teams fall off that they can sneak in as a Wild Card. The Saints have a massive, nigh-insurmountable lead in the division, and the Panthers are picking up steam in a hurry, making the NFC South seem pretty well-fortified.

The opportunity to get out in front of some of the other teams on this list is real, however. The Seahawks have found their footing but remain a team with some pretty glaring weaknesses, while the Eagles, Packers and Vikings have all struggled off and on throughout the year.

The good news for Atlanta, if you’re keen to hear it, is that they have games left against Washington, New Orleans, Carolina, Dallas and Green Bay, allowing them to dent all of those teams’ playoff chances with wins while helping their own. The bad news is that there’s still nine teams in front of them at the moment, and none of them are truly obvious candidates to fall off outside of Washington.

Let’s call it what it is: This is a tough road, and one that the Falcons still aren’t particularly likely to be able to travel to the postseason. For now, though, hope is alive and well in Atlanta.