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NFL flexes Falcons - Saint to 4:25 p.m. next Sunday

The league recognizes the playoff stakes for New Orleans and the heat of the rivalry.

NFL: NOV 07 Falcons at Saints Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons can’t get into the postseason, but they can prevent the Saints from getting into the playoffs by beating them Sunday. That means that in addition to the usual wildness that Falcons-Saints brings to a Sunday, there are real stakes to this Week 18 matchup.

Given that, the NFL has decided to move the game to a later time slot where more eyeballs will presumably be on it. Hopefully they’ll all tune to watch Atlanta win.

This is the last remaining playoff spot in the NFC up for grabs, with the 49ers and Saints effectively competing for it. There are multiple scenarios here, but the cleanest is this: If the Falcons win the Saints are out. That gives Atlanta the chance to play spoiler and wind up with the 8-9 record many of us predicted way back at the end of the season, with draft pick implications we’ll cover off on later in the week. Obviously you don’t get the opportunity to doom your rival in this fashion very often, so we’ll hope Atlanta can take advantage.

The Falcons will hope to get several players back from the reserve/COVID-19 list and not add any new names ahead of Sunday, while the Saints will hope to be healthier themselves after gutting out a win over a hapless Carolina team. We’re less than a week away from the end of the season now, but at least the 7-9 Falcons have an opportunity to go out with a bang.