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There will be hell to pay in the NFC if the Atlanta Falcons make the playoffs

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Message to the rest of the NFC: bury the Falcons while you can.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are on the mat at the moment — beaten and bruised, both literally and figuratively, three weeks into the season.

The Falcons sit at 1-2, their worst record after three weeks since 2013. They’ve lost starters Keanu Neal, Andy Levitre and Ricardo Allen for the entire season and are without Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones for two months. Starting running back Devonta Freeman has been out for multiple weeks and starting DE Takk McKinley missed the Week 3 matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Atlanta has had the worst injury luck in the NFL thus far, with players just dropping like flies. This team is vulnerable, yet so dangerous.

For all of the bad luck on the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons have started to figure things out on offense — scoring 68 points in the past two games, and going 8/8 in converting red zone chances into touchdowns in that time.

Matt Ryan has looked like the 2016 MVP version of himself over those games, accounting for nine touchdowns and not throwing a single interception. This comes after a 2017 season where he didn’t account for more than two touchdowns in a single game.

This hasn’t been an ideal start for the Birds, obviously. A few more unexpected losses would take them out of the late-season hunt altogether.

This is a warning to all of the other NFC contenders who still have Atlanta remaining on their schedule — the Saints, Panthers, Packers and maybe even Redskins and Bucs — bury this team while you have the opportunity.

If the Falcons make it to the playoffs, they’ll have all of the makings of a battle-tested unit, having overcome adversity, that no team will want to face.

Remember the Philadelphia Eagles last season, another team left for dead after losing its MVP-caliber quarterback, All-Pro left tackle, Pro Bowl right tackle, change of pace running back and starting middle linebacker for the season. They rallied, despite being the underdogs in every single playoff game they appeared in.

Deion Jones, arguably the team’s most important defensive player, will be back by the time the post season rolls around. The offense will likely be a devastating out for any defensive unit they face. More than anything, Dan Quinn will have this team motivated to be overcome the odds.

Quinn is a master motivator. The Falcons should have fallen off the map last season following the collapse in Super Bowl 51, but Dan Quinn helped the team buy in and overcome the SB hangover to become the only 2016 NFC playoff team to make it back to the post season in 2017. This unit will continue to fight no matter what the adversity.

You don’t need to go 13-3 and have home-field advantage to make a run in the playoffs, you just have to get in. The Falcons will be a team nobody wants to face come playoff time, so it would behoove the rest of the NFC to keep them out. If they don’t, then there will be hell to pay.