The dream for the playoffs very likely ended on the soil of the Super Dome in New Orleans last weekend, but it can now mathematically be put to bed on Christmas Eve for the Falcons. The Birds will hope that Santa left a reprieve in their stocking, with a victory this weekend keeping them just alive, albeit on life support. Instead, they may find the coal of elimination brought to them by John Harbaugh and his festive Ravens.
Baltimore has a chance to clinch a playoff spot of their own this weekend, and they look to bring their fanbase an “X” next to their name in the playoff picture as an early Christmas present. Their chase of the Bengals for an AFC North title is also still very much as on as Santa’s midnight journey.
It’s a special Saturday of NFL action, and the Falcons remain alive somehow at 5-9, due to how putrid the NFC South is. Let’s take a look at the circumstances surrounding the Falcons if they beat the Ravens in Week 16, as well as looking at the scenario if they lose.
If the Falcons win
No matter what, they will remain mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Their chances right now are at 4% according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, and they could rise to as high as 31% if every other team in the division loses (which is what they have been doing a lot of this season). That projection will lie at 11% if Tampa Bay wins while the Panthers and Saints suffer defeat.
Looking at the draft board, the Falcons would currently sit at pick number seven if the season ended today. Due to their poor strength of schedule (the primary tiebreaker in draft seeding), they would not fall further than ninth and that’s only if the Panthers and Saints (also 5-9) both lose.
They would break a modest two game losing streak against the Ravens in the head-to-head series and pull to 3-4 all time against the team from Maryland.
With a bit of good fortune regarding other score lines (hello Cardinals and Lions), they could find themselves with their own destiny for a division crown in their hands and two home games remaining this season. That’s about all you can ask for at this time of year.
If the Falcons lose
They would officially be mathematically eliminated from post season contention if Tampa Bay also beats Arizona. If all three of the other NFC South teams lose, Atlanta’s playoff odds would sit at the exact same 4% they are at going into this weekend.
They could climb up to as high as the fourth pick in the draft, if the Cardinals and Colts both win this weekend. With the Broncos and and Rams facing one another, Atlanta will at the very least be guaranteed a jump to the sixth pick due to their owning of the tie breaker.
The Birds would fall to 5-10, and would guarantee that they would not win more than the seven games they triumphed in last season. Last week, they already guaranteed themselves a fifth losing season in a row.
The Falcons would also lose their third consecutive game against the Ravens and will fall to 2-5 against Baltimore in the head-to-head series.