With Green Bay’s 35-21 victory over Chicago, the Falcons clinched a playoff berth for the third time over the past four seasons on Sunday night.
The Falcons (9-5) play the New Orleans Saints (11-5) at 8:30 p.m. Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The playoff berth marks the first time in franchise history that the team has made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
In addition to Chicago’s loss, the Falcons needed losses from Dallas and Arizona. Philadelphia beat Dallas and Cincinnati beat Arizona on Saturday.
The Falcons can win the NFC South title and earn the No. 3 seed with victories over New Orleans and Tampa Bay coupled with a loss by the Saints to Carolina.
The Falcons would host a home game if they can land the No. 3 seed.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be, in the mix in December with everything we want still in front of us with two games to play,” said quarterback Matt Ryan when asked about the playoffs on Thursday.
In 2008, the Falcons were eliminated by the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round. Last season, the Falcons were the No. 1 seed but were upset at home by Green Bay in the divisional round. Arizona and Green Bay went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are one of the league’s hottest teams. They have won seven of their last night games and could go into the playoffs with a lot of momentum if they can defeat New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
“You want to be playing your best ball in December,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said recently. “One of the things that we talk about as an organization and a football team, we want to be relevant in December. To be relevant, you have to be playing good football. . . It becomes very important that you win games going down the stretch.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog