NFC playoff picture: Falcons are in the driver’s seat

The Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders perform between the 1st and 2nd quarter at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

The Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders perform between the 1st and 2nd quarter at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – For the 9-2 Falcons, the playoff picture is pretty clear:  win-out and earn the No.1  seed in the NFC.

The Falcons, who are about to set out on a three-game road swing, have the best record in the NFC and hold a one game lead in the NFC South over the New Orleans Saints with five games to play.

A Green Bay Packers fan isn't happy with the 20-17 Falcons victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

A Green Bay Packers fan isn't happy with the 20-17 Falcons victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

“It’s great to get winning season,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “But our expectations and our goals are a lot higher than that. We want to keep them internally, but we are progressing on our journey to where we want to be as a football team.

“In December that’s when the games become very important.”

If the playoffs started today, the Chicago Bears (8-3) would represent the NFC North. The Philadelphia Eagles  (7-4) would win the NFC East and the St. Louis Rams (5-6) would win the meek NFC West.

New Orleands (8-3) and the New York Giants (7-4) would wrap up the wildcard spots. Tampa Bay (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4) would be on the outside looking in.

NFC PLAYOFF RACE

Conference seedings

1. Falcons 9-2

A Green Bay Packers fan isn't happy with the 20-17 Falcons victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

A Green Bay Packers fan isn't happy with the 20-17 Falcons victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

2. Bears 8-3
3. Eagles 7-4
4. Rams 5-6
5. Saints 8-3
6. Giants 7-4
7. Bucs 7-4
8. Packers 7-4

Remaining schedules

FALCONS
At Bucs (7-4)
At Panthers (1-10)
At Seahawks (5-6)
Saints (8-3)
Panthers (1-10)
Opponents’ record: 22-33

SAINTS
At Bengals (2-9)
Rams (5-6)
At Ravens (8-3)
At Falcons (9-2)
Bucs (7-4)
Opponents’ record: 31-24

101128 Atlanta - Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes levels Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings as he catches a pass from Aaron Rodgers during 2nd half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

101128 Atlanta - Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes levels Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings as he catches a pass from Aaron Rodgers during 2nd half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

BUCS
Falcons (9-2)
At Redskins (5-6)
Lions (2-9)
Seahawks (5-6)
At Saints (8-3)
Opponents’ record: 29-26

BEARS
At Lions (2-9)
Patriots (9-2)
At Vikings (4-7)
Jets (9-2)
At Packers (7-4)
Opponents’ record: 31-24

PACKERS
49ers (3-7)
At Lions (2-9)
At Patriots (9-2)
Giants (7-4)
Bears (8-3)
Opponents’ record: 29-25
EAGLES
Texans (5-6
At Cowboys (3-8)
At Giants (7-4)

101128 Atlanta - Santa Claus Michael Castellana, Covington, celebrates a 20-17 Falcons victory over the Packers as Matt Ryan is now 19-1 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

101128 Atlanta - Santa Claus Michael Castellana, Covington, celebrates a 20-17 Falcons victory over the Packers as Matt Ryan is now 19-1 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Vikings (4-7)
Cowboys (3-8)
Opponents’ record: 22-33

GIANTS
Redskins (5-6)
At Vikings (4-7)
Eagles (7-4)
At Packers (7-4)
At Redskins (5-6)
Opponents’ record: 28-27

RAMS
At Cardinals (3-7)
At Saints (8-3)
Chiefs (7-4)
49ers (3-7)
at Seahawks (5-6)
Opponents’ record: 26-27

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132 comments Add your comment

mountain_jim

November 29th, 2010
11:28 am

Just win baby!

mountain_jim

November 29th, 2010
11:29 am

and nice picture to start out the week :)

Marcus

November 29th, 2010
11:44 am

3rd !! (Falcons are 1st …… ;) )

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………..the gratuitous D.Led cheerleading/babe shot.

Marcus

November 29th, 2010
11:47 am

wow. ….. I wish Roy Williams had held onto that long pass so DAL could have run out the clock vs. NO and we would have a 2-game lead. Looking at the Saints remaining sched. vs. ours … they are gonna be on our heels through New Years Day …. :(
take care of bizness, guys.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 29th, 2010
11:48 am

Marcus: It’s a staple of the blog. The Cheerleaders practice, too.

Samuel

November 29th, 2010
11:48 am

Got to go down to Raymond James stadium and kick some butt.We have to dominate this team for sixty mintues. Let’s hope our db’s are up for the task. Go Falcons!!!!

North FLA Falcon

November 29th, 2010
11:52 am

Going to Tampa and also to Seattle will be tough. Beware of Carolina, we can’t go to sleep on these division games.

Packing the Fudge

November 29th, 2010
11:54 am

The cheesehead hat is embarrassing enough, but when coupled with tears after a Packers loss, it makes that dude look like an even bigger pansy.

North FLA Falcon

November 29th, 2010
11:59 am

The Cheeseheads were in full effect yesterday. It’s scary how opposing teams can try to take over Atlanta sports events. A friend went to the Thrashers game Saturday night and said it was full of vocal Montreal fans, cheering in French. Atlanta truly needs a “sports identity” and hopefully the Falcons will create that.

FEAR THE TALON

November 29th, 2010
12:00 pm

WHAT A GAME!!! AFTER TAILGATING BEFORE & AFTER THE GAME I COULDN’T HELP MYSELF LAST NIGHT. I HAD A “GRILLED CHEESE” SANDWICH BEFORE I WENT TO BED!!!!!! WHAT A DAY!!!

**Frederick(Bailey)Douglass**

November 29th, 2010
12:02 pm

DOL and crew,

Good information…looks like the Birds still have to play ball. Tampa will be waiting and remembering their visit to the Dome. A few observations:

(1) Matt Ryan is engaged…to both his fiance and this season’s campaign. Dude is playing LIGHTS OUT. This is what we expected after season one. His ball protection was excellent on yesterday. Packers too away the deep ball so he dumped it off all day to move the ball. Nothing seemed forced at all. His command is becoming apparent.

(2) Weems #14 had a very good day. If not for the facemask he was going to the house. Big time play by a guy that really is coached to catch the ball and cover up. He gets a game ball for that effort and for going down to tackle the Packers return guy during their last gasp.

(3) Clabo shut Clay Matthews down. Repeat: Clabo shut Clay Matthews down. The big guy has been playing this year…pay him and keep him. Keep this unit together.

(4) Douglas and Jenkins are starting to step up…#83 had big catches on that last drive. He fell off this year, but hopefully the catches on yesterday will get him going. Tony G. made up for his previous drops with some really big time receptions.

(5) We still have problems on defense, especially in the secondary. #20 Grimes has been beat by tall receivers, short receivers, on the right side, on the left side…on short routes and on long routes. There is a 60% chance that if the Falcons give up a score…Grimes would have been targeted. Birds should mix #29 in to give them some physicality…especially on 3rd and long. DeCoud got ALL turned around on that 4th and goal. With 9 in coverage, the BIRDS failed miserably. Inexcusable.

While this was a big win…we find out more about this squad in Tampa. I would like to see a win to stamp their superiority.

FBD

SirReal

November 29th, 2010
12:06 pm

Very good win yesterday though we still have a ways to go to get where we wanna be. This week’s game will be tough against TB at home. Seattle could be one of those games like STL so we just need to go in there and smash them. N.O. will also be tough and probably will be the division title game. TB has too many good teams left. they end up 7-9 or 8-8. Have 2 against the kitties we cant sleep on. We need BOTH of those games. CAR has a good D believe it or not. These last five weeks will be interesting…but I think we end up on top and all roads go through ATL. :)

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ClassicFalcons

November 29th, 2010
12:13 pm

This Years Playoffs Will Be About Match Ups. With That Being Said, As Long As We Get Home Field Advantage We Should Be On Our Way To The Bowl. The Eagle and the Saints Will Be Our Test In The Playoffs. The Eagles Are The Only Team We Do Not Match Up With, So Lets Hope The Saints Or The Bears Take Care Of Them and We Meet One Of Them Squads In The NFC Title Game, In The Dome. Falcons Will Finish 14-2 or 13-3 and Will Have Home Field! SUPER BOWL Here We Come!!

North FLA Falcon

November 29th, 2010
12:28 pm

Nice to see you back here SeenB4. Good win Thurs night in a hostile environment. December is going to be FUN in the NFC Dirty South, yall!

chalkdawg4

November 29th, 2010
12:30 pm

If I’m Matt Ryan i’m throwing Sarah Marshall under the bus and starting with the blond at the top of this page.

GoFalcons

November 29th, 2010
12:32 pm

Amazing how the loser saints fans always show up on the Falcons blogs! Haha, we already beat you sissy boys in your house. Just wait, tick tick tick tick, you’re coming to our house for a second helping!

North FLA Falcon

November 29th, 2010
12:38 pm

So Ryan is engaged. It’s just a matter of time B4 Kroy Biermann marries Kim Z from “Real Housewives” … don’t be tardy for that party!

Blake

November 29th, 2010
12:47 pm

Tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick.tick…
That’s the time running out on the aints winning the NFC South Division!

GO FALCONS…OUR TIME…RISE UP!

OH AND BTW…IF AINTS GOTTA COME TO OUR HOUSE WITH THE DIVISION POSSIBLY ON THE LINE…I DON’T THINK SO SEENTHISB4!

PMC

November 29th, 2010
12:48 pm

Even our Cheerleaders are unappreciated…. Wow.

Nice pick DOL.

Growler

November 29th, 2010
1:04 pm

D. Orlando:
The story is not entirely accurate. There’s even better news for the Falcons:
They do NOT need to win out to clinch the #1 seed. If the Falcons defeat Tampa Bay, Seattle and Carolina twice, they’d clinch the NFC’s top seed even if they lose to the Saints here in Atlanta… and even if the Saints win out and both teams finish 13-3.
The reason:
The Falcons would win the division based on the “common opponents” tiebreaker. (The first two division tiebreakers— head-to-head and division record, would be even.)
The Falcons also would clinch #1 seed over a 13-3 Bears team based on a better conference record.
So the if the Falcons take care of business against those other teams, the Saints game may ultimately be rendered meaningless! Now it may mean they’d have to play their starters on January 2nd to beat the Panthers, but no one would be complaining if they did and won!

SirReal

November 29th, 2010
1:08 pm

I’m so sick of the national media STILL not giving our Birds respect but I’m fine with continuing to fly under the radar. After the game, one of the neanderthals on NFL network was asked if Atlanta was now the best team in the NFC. He replies ‘ I wanna say Green Bay but Atlanta just beat them.” Its cool. Cant wait to serve him and the rest some crow after we go deep into the playoffs.

collegeballfan

November 29th, 2010
1:14 pm

The Falcons have two losses. Both on the road. So we are concerned about 3 straight on the road. Tampa Bay will be tough.

No injuries and stay healthy!

Falcons Decatur

November 29th, 2010
1:20 pm

I am looking at the Playoff Picture like this, defense wins Championship. It is all about matchups, and who is going to out coach who in the road to the playoffs. The Falcons have to win out, and try to be at least 13-3 when it is all over. Phil is something to think about, they almost can back against the Bears on Sunday. Drew Brees and the Saints are trying to get healthy and the Bucs don’t care. The Falcons have to play smach mouth football, and hold that football as long as we can. Matt Ryan isn’t a long ball quarterback, but he is smart and he knows how to manage the game. The Falcons need to work on their pass coverage on defense and open that playbook, hopefully Harry Douglas will wake up and start scoring touchdowns again. Just take one game at a time, and they get healthy and work on the passing game on defense and will be ready. GO FALCONS!!!!

Falcon Man

November 29th, 2010
1:22 pm

Growler you are correct. The Aint’s loss to Cleveland will cause them to lose the tiebreaker. Aint’s lost to Atl, Ariz, & Clev. Falcons have lost to Pitt & Philly, and in tis scenario the Aint’s. Pitt loss wiped out by Aint’s loss to Ariz, since Falcons beat Ariz. Aint’s don’t play Philly. Falcons beat Cleveland, hince the tiebreaker winner if needed.

Just win out and we won’t need a tiebreaker. Also, Aint’s still have to travel to Baltimore on 12/19, hopefully really cold, maybe even some snow.

Greg

November 29th, 2010
1:30 pm

I agree with everything Falcons Decatur said, so all I’ll add is that I didn’t at all like the three-man rush at the end of the game yesterday. What was Van Gorder thinking? The genie asks Aaron Rodgers what one defense he wants to see at that point in the game. Answer: “I want to see the three-man rush.” When you have a cool and supremely accurate QB like that, you simply CANNOT give him 10-15 seconds to find a receiver, especially if you have really quick wide-outs (and GB has them). Finally, what the heck was D. Robinson doing at CB yesterday? That’s two games in a row that he has looked, ah, pretty bad. I’m not talking about his having to cover when there was no pass-rush; I’m talking about his coverage on hitches and short outs. And his atrocious tackling.

Growler

November 29th, 2010
1:40 pm

Hey Falcon Man, just to clarify to you (and anyone else who cares) the Saints loss to Cleveland is not what would affect the common opponents tiebreaker.
Currently, all division teams have 14 common opponents and only 2 non-common ones. So the thing to do is to look at the the two non-common games. If one team, say, swept those 2 games and the other didn’t, then that first team would have to have a worse record in *common* games.
Well that alreay has happened.
The Saints defeated Minnesota and Dallas. 2-0.
The Falcons defeated Green Bay but LOST to Philadelphia. 1-1.
So the Falcons record vs. COMMON opponents is better.
Therefore if they both finish 13-3, even if the Saints defeat the Falcons, the Saints would lose the tie-breaker because of the results of those games above.

mj

November 29th, 2010
1:53 pm

Brett Grimes gets picked on every week. Go back and look at every third and long and its Grimes whom gives up the big play. Guy is always chasing the receiver. I can’t be the only one who see’s it. Hopefully the rest of the defense can carry him but we must upgrade that spot in the off season.

Authur Blank

November 29th, 2010
1:55 pm

please don’t pinch me till the super bowl…

FrontRow

November 29th, 2010
2:07 pm

D’led any information on playoff tickets? When will they give dates and prices?

BayouMudBug91

November 29th, 2010
2:19 pm

If the little dirty birds do (like believing in santa) go to the SuperBowl, I wonder who will get arrested before the game this year? (hint-Eugene (where is the hookers) Robinson.)
WHO DAT!

How you like me now?

November 29th, 2010
2:19 pm

another flat ase white gurl Ledbetter you still chasing white gurls? Its ok to like black women ….

go V I m v 7 CK

FrontRow

November 29th, 2010
2:43 pm

Never mind. Playoff invoices posted and mailed December 6. Tickets must be purchased by December 21. I’m guessing they go on sale to the public some time after the 21st.

MV8

November 29th, 2010
3:30 pm

The only sure wins are both Carolina games, road games with Tampa, Seattle, & Saints @ home are all possible losses, so nothing is secured yet, the only SURE thing is when the Birds leave the very friendly confines of the Dome losing is a strong probability, which is sad but true when you have a fair weather team just like the real birds!!!! Unless they get home field #1 seed throughout the playoffs the Super Bowl is just wishful thinking!!!

Joycee Banicheck

November 29th, 2010
3:41 pm

Did Dunta give up another TD yesterday?

Joycee Banicheck

November 29th, 2010
3:47 pm

MV8, the Birds beat the Saints and Cleveland (who went on to beat Saints and N.E.) on the road. Yes I did just throw Cleveland into the discussion, these aint your daddy’s Browns…

Also went to OT against one of the best D’s in the NFL in week 1 although Dixon played in place of Ben Rapelisburger. This is still a very good team with the only REAL blemish thus far coming in Philly. What an awful game that was.

Tricia Thomas

November 29th, 2010
4:03 pm

Congratulations Falcons, I think this will come down to the wire. Looking forward to a very good game between the Saints and Falcons

Blake

November 29th, 2010
4:04 pm

SeenThisB4…Seems to me you guys gotta beat the Ravens and Falcons on the road to win the Division.It aint’ gonna happen for ya…I’m sorry…Tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick…till Falcons take their rightful place on top of the NFC South!

Wake up VanGorder

November 29th, 2010
4:04 pm

Why didn’t we bring pressure on the 4th down play, I’m not saying bring the house but 3 guys rushing will never stop Rodgers or any of these other decent QBs out there. I still say always bring a fourh guy on the long yardage downs. Maybe a fith is living on the edge, but we really have not been able to stop late scores with a 3 man pass rush.

William

November 29th, 2010
4:26 pm

This Atlanta Falcons team is absolutely awesome!!! Love the way they play the game. Love the way they dominate the line of scrimmage. Love the business-like attitudes and the smiles on their faces. That’s the way you want to play the game. Love the way you know… YOU KNOW… they will get the win at the end. This is a great Atlanta Falcons team and, can you believe it, a GREAT ORGANIZATION!!!

real12real

November 29th, 2010
4:31 pm

SeenThisB4, you must have no life if all you do is stay on the ajc blogs. Come on now, you don’t even cheer for the Falcons, this is my first time commenting on any ajc blog, but SeenThisB4 just seems like he has no life. Haha.

a bandwagon fan is still a fan

November 29th, 2010
4:38 pm

NFL Playoffs: Falcons in driver’s seat. bet you never thought you’d utter those words. I could care less, but the team is playing well, so kudos from top to bottom. As “Smitty” points out, there is still work to be done and teams that fail to remember December have a less than happy new year.

whodatsay

November 29th, 2010
4:39 pm

Let me be the one to clarify something. If Falcons lose aganst Bucs and the Saints beat the Falcons (even if Saints lose to Ravens) the Saints will win the Division and most likely be number one seed (assuming Falcons and Saints win their other games). Couple of other stats to think about to counter the Falcons great home record:

Saints are 12-1 in their last 13 road games
Drew Brees is 4-1 lifetime in the Ga. Dome

Should be a fun finish!

Authur Blank

November 29th, 2010
4:43 pm

“Saints are 12-1 in their last 13 road games”= BOO DAT STAT of the DAY!

the guy banging that cheerleader @ the top of the page

November 29th, 2010
4:45 pm

yeah I’m banging dat! go FALCON CHEERLEADERS

Ed

November 29th, 2010
4:50 pm

I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season pans out, personally I think the Falcons are going to win out and get home field advantage in the playoffs. As for the team in general I think Matt Ryan is becoming more and more like Brady in Manning especially when it comes to film study and his coolness under pressure. With a powerful running game with Turner and Snelling and a passing game that is very balanced, where the ball gets distributed so many ways, I think this team can win a Super Bowl. While the Falcons might not have the star power individually they are something special as an overall team and that is what sports is all about, or should be about.

whodatsay

November 29th, 2010
4:53 pm

Admit it, losing to the Saints on MNF which will result in Falcons losing division and #1 seed is your worst nightmare. Falcons won’t have the luxury of a missed 29 yard field goal, a facemask on a kick off, R. White shoving a D Back to the ground, stopping Saints on 4th and 1 inside the five or having a defensive player fumble an interception that would have iced the game. Falcons are a mirage and the house of cards are about to crumble down!

MV8

November 29th, 2010
5:00 pm

Joycee, they only “won” the Saints game cause of a fluke missed 30 yard chip shot field goal, should have lost to the sorry 49ers dont even try to sugar coat that game, & I would never brag about beating the Browns!!! If they have to go to Green Bay, Philly, or NY the Birds will freeze over & get their wings clipped, bet on it!!! No Home field, No Super Bowl!!1 Believe that!!!!!

Enkinan

November 29th, 2010
5:42 pm

This is all speculation, one week at a time people. GO FALCONS!

…and Bengals

chipontheroad birdsrus

November 29th, 2010
6:08 pm

oh hell yes falcons grilled cheese is good