NFC South Report: ‘Roasted’ Falcons on track for wild card?

This photo comes to us from reader "Ted Striker," via his friend in New Orleans, "Denver Bird." Me, I'm just Jeff.

This photo was taken the day after the Falcons-Saints game at "Bozo's" restaurant in Metairie. It comes to us from reader "Ted Striker," via his friend in New Orleans, "Denver Bird."

The Falcons are not necessarily dead in the NFC South race. But they’re 4-3 and three games out with nine games left. The New Orleans Saints  are 7-0 and seemingly have only three difficult games left on their schedule: Patriots, Cowboys, Falcons. So let’s just say something unexpected has to happen.

Other than Reggie Bush’s little slip up last week, the Saints have done a good job not overreacting to the 7-0 start and tempering the we-can-go-unbeaten talk. They have an easy reference point. The only other time they started 7-0, they went 4-5 in the final nine in 1991, and then lost in the first round of the playoffs (to the Falcons).

No, I didn’t peek. I wrote that before I saw that Drew Brees said this: “There are a lot of things we can improve on. You’ve seen teams in the past,they go through these stretches being undefeated and the pressure mounts and at the end of the season there’s self-destruction and they get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. But you know what? We are so much locked into this one-game-at-a-time [mind-set], not letting this undefeated thing get to us. It’s all about the next opponent.”

Here’s the math: The rest of the Falcons’ schedule includes road games at the Giants and Jets and home games against the Saints and Eagles. The best they probably will go is 6-3, which means a 10-6 season. New Orleans would have to go 3-6 to drop into a tie. (Let’s not get into tiebreakers just yet.) It’s possible but not probable. So just in case, here’s a look at the NFC wild-card standings. I’m listing tied teams in order of how the NFL lists them in their official standings, although, like I said, tiebreakers are too difficult to decipher at this stage.

Projected division champions: Philadelphia (East), Minnesota (North), New Orleans (South), Arizona (West).


WILD-CARD STANDINGS

Dallas        5-2

N.Y. Giants   5-3

Falcons       4-3

Green Bay     4-3

Chicago       4-3

San Francisco 3-4

Carolina      3-4

Washington    2-5

Seattle       2-5

Detroit       1-6

St. Louis     1-7

Tampa Bay     0-7

Look who's not dead, after all.

Look who's not dead, after all.

OK, I lied. Let’s get into tiebreakers. The Falcons already have lost to Dallas. They have the Giants coming up soon. Head-to-head could be a factor.

So what do you think? Is the race for first place dead?

CAROLINA

Are the Panthers waking up?

They beat Arizona, 34-21, Sunday (granted, just a week after losing to Buffalo). At 3-4, they’re not out of it. And seeing Jake Delhomme throw a touchdown pass to Steve Smith at least makes everybody in Charlotte feel nostalgic.

The Panthers entered the game with the NFL’s worst turnover differential (minus-14). They were a plus-six against Arizona (thanks to five interceptions by Kurt Warner, my Fantasy League starter). If the Panthers can play some defense, they’re not going anywhere. Why? Because they can run the ball. After running for 270 yards against Arizona, they rank fourth in league in rushing (153.3 per game).

TAMPA BAY

Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now stand alone (at the bottom).

Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now stand alone (at the bottom).

What’s more likely: That the Saints go 16-0 or the Buccaneers go 0-16?

Tampa Bay had a bye Sunday but actually dropped in status — St. Louis and Tennessee both won, leaving the Bucs as the last winless team. Safe to say this isn’t a subject coach Raheem Morris likes discussing.

“Embarrassment would be your word,’’ Morris said. “There’s never a sense of embarrassment. The only thing we do … I’m not interested in sharing misery with anybody else in the league. I’m not interested in who else doesn’t have a win, I’m interested in getting our own win. That’s our job, that’s what we have to do. We’re responsible to go out and win every day. I’m not interested in sharing anything with the Rams, with the Titans, whoever else is. That’s not my job. Our job is to go out and get our first victory. That’s the only thing you can look at.’’

39 comments Add your comment

F-105 Thunderchief

November 4th, 2009
11:04 am

Raheem Morris may be the worst coaching choice since Gerry Faust.

F-105 Thunderchief

November 4th, 2009
11:05 am

And Bucs GM Joe Blow isn’t any better.

Eric

November 4th, 2009
11:08 am

Wild card looks good right now but honestly the Falcons have just had a brutal schedule so far. You can see that playing teams off of a bye is difficult and the road doesn’t get much easier for us. I still believe that the main goal of this year should be to get this “never had consecutive winning seasons” monkey off our back. We can worry about championships and such over the next couple of years…

Herschel Talker

November 4th, 2009
11:08 am

Fire Booby Cox!

JeanE

November 4th, 2009
11:24 am

I am not thinking beyond the next game, why bother to do that? Any team can win any given Sunday, look at Carolina beating the Cardinals? Everytime I think I have a lock on a team, they pull a Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde on me! Just take care of the Redskins, if we don’t win that, who cares what happens the week after? I think Elam is rusty, he’s hardly kicked before this past Sunday and now his timing or something is all off. But, his missed kicks weren’t the point differential in why we lost so I’ll give him a pass this week only. We hung tough with a really great team, we can build on that. Matty Ryan needs to nut up a little and stand tough! Spread the ball around, not just hone in on Gonzalez and White. Go Birds!!!

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
11:26 am

Did a story with Gerry Faust when he was at Akron, after he was fired at Notre Dame Walked into his office and he had two books on his desk. A Bible and a Notre Dame media guide. He probably planned it that way. But I wrote it.

Michael

November 4th, 2009
11:29 am

The division is done barring a total meltdown by NO, which I don’t see happening. So yeah, they’d better focus on doing what they can to get one of the wildcards.

FireUga7.net

November 4th, 2009
11:42 am

The Falcons are going to have to work to go 9-7 this year. Which will be nice because it will mean finally having back to back winning seasons, but it won’t mean they make the playoffs.

bob horner stayed hurt

November 4th, 2009
11:50 am

I notice you have the Eagles as the projected winner of the NFC east…as a Falcons fan I want Dallas to win the East….Dallas next 2 games are against Philly and GB….I hope they win both of those games…Atlanta plays Philly so we can win that game and have that tie breaker….there is so much football left…..it’s fun to talk about…let’s beat Washington Sunday….

pilgrim

November 4th, 2009
12:02 pm

Smith was ticked over the loss to the Saints. I’m glad he doesn’t go with the “the best they probably will go is 6-3″ analysis of this sports writer. Comparing the loss to Dallas with that of the Saints tells me the Falcons will do better than 6-3.

Eric C.

November 4th, 2009
12:12 pm

I’m thinking NYG will still win the east, and that is a good thing for the Falcons because I don’t see them winning at NYG. Give Dallas the first wild card spot because of their head-to-head win over the Falcons and the liklihood they may stay a game ahead anyway. That leaves the second spot to Philly or ATL…so that game is going to be HUGE at the dome for the Falcons to have a good chance at getting a wild card spot.

JerseyFalcon

November 4th, 2009
12:13 pm

Anyone else take notice that soft shell crabs are $17.95!!!! My god is that over priced….As far as teh Falcons..they have Washington, TB, Buffalo, carolina, and then TB again….They’ll go at least 9-7 by beating those teams. Just hope no one else hgets injured and the Gaints/Dallas stumble. Another point…Mike Jenkins…remember, he was a first round pick and no one is putting the “bust” tag on him…he can’t catch!

9 games to go

November 4th, 2009
12:32 pm

The Falcons also started 4-3 last year and ended up 11-5. They barely lost the division to 12-4 Carolina by one game. —Got my fingers crossed–

Bubba

November 4th, 2009
12:59 pm

The Falcons have a tough schedule. We knew that going in, and we are now (4-3) where most of the “pundits” said we would be back in July and August. I feel sorry for Jeff for having to find new angles on a storyline that was played out 3, 4 months ago.

Turner was on the downside first couple of weeks, Ryan picked up the slack. Turner had a good game, Ryan’s been on the downside the las couple of weeks. Not all on his shoulders – the O-line hasn’t been as dominating the last couple of weeks, and I think a couple of Ryan’s INTs were on the receivers’ shoulders (where have you gone, Michael Jenkins, a city turns its hopeful eyes to you).

So, we have a good 4-3 team playing about how we expected them to play, maybe a little more of a sophomore slump (Ryan and Smith) than was expected. I don’t get that “here we go again” feeling I usually get with the “uh-oh” moments. I think Coach Smith will have a few “Come to Jesus” meetings with his team, because – let’s face it – this was a game the Falcons could’ve won. Coach needs to make sure the team is on the same page. Maybe then Ryan and Turner will be on the same page, the O-line will be in the same book, and the D doesn’t wait until the start of the second half to play with the rest of ‘em.

I think playoffs are still very much a part of the future.

tom

November 4th, 2009
1:04 pm

Not a big fan of Mike Vick—-must weigh in. Everyone says he is a non-factor. He can’t get back to his old self. In competitive sports the more reps you get, the sooner you get it back. He needs to be the starting quarterback for another team. Then let his actions speak out. It is great the Eagles gave him a re-start. He needs to be somewhere else.

Ted Striker

November 4th, 2009
1:24 pm

Raheem Morris may not have a win yet, but he sure looks cool in that pic. So, I got me some uber cool shades and a sleek Motorola headset and I went over to Butts-Mehre. Saw Richt in the hallway and struck up a conversation. FYI, he’s not taking new applications for a DC till Jan. The rest of you might as well hold off till next offseason too. But I’m first in line.

The Dogfighter Returns

November 4th, 2009
1:46 pm

how many wildcard teams make the playoffs from the NFC, 2 or 3?

Jeff reggie did not slip up, you slipped up. did you see him cakewalk into the endzone? I hope lovie dovie smith saw that that play.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
2:10 pm

Bob Horner – just going by current standings. Actually, I still think Giants will pull it out in East.

9 games to go – Right you are. I referenced the 4-3 thing the other day. But not sure a 7-2 finish is in the cards this season with the schedule.

Dogfighter – no kidding. Who was closest Falcon to him? .. By the way, 2 wild cards make it in each conference. 6 playoff teams in each conference. 2 of the 4 division winners in each conference get first-round byes.

Ryan

November 4th, 2009
2:23 pm

Jeff – Where is you article about Ealey’s comments after the hand wringing yesterday about the horrible criminal acts of Brandon Spikes?

Ealey said it happens all the time in football and his guys do it too. Jeff – Where is you article about Ealey’s comments after the hand wringing yesterday about the horrible criminal acts of Brandon Spikes?

Ealey said it happens all the time in football and his guys do it too and that Spikes should not be suspended.

It was a punk move, but anyone who played football (other than Mike Golic apparently) know it happens all the time. Football is full of punks.

GT Brill

November 4th, 2009
2:32 pm

Beat Washington, go 5-3 first half, mirror that second half with another 5-3 with a little easier schedule ahead….makes for 10-6…first back to back winning seasons and a shot at the playoffs. With what we have to work with, I can live with that. I still feel good about this team.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
2:40 pm

Ryan — What would you expect Ealey to say. A player is not going to complain about that publicly. He knows it would look bad. It follows that I never expected Mark Richt to say anything either. But if you want to continue to defend Brandon Spikes for a goon move, have at it.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
2:42 pm

Ryan — And by the way, how is it possible that Mike Golic –who played big-time college football at Notre Dame AND eight years in the NFL — would not know what goes on at the bottom of the pile? You really doubt his credibility?

Ryan

November 4th, 2009
2:53 pm

Jeff – I am no Mike Golic but I played at Georgia Southern for 4 years and I was gouged, chocked, had my privets grabbed and squeezed, and had opponents try to break my fingers, all many, many times in a pile. It is all dirty and I am not defending Spikes, I am just saying it happens all the time. He got caught and should be punished but it is nowhere near as big a deal as UGA fans are making it out. I was honestly very surprised to hear Golic say what he did.

Even if Ealey wasn’t going to say anything publicly, why on earth would he say his own team does it too if that were not true?

It is a part of football, an ugly part, but a part none the less.

Falcon Sam

November 4th, 2009
3:20 pm

Jeff, the Giants are 5-3, not 5-2.

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
3:53 pm

Ryan — I never wrote it never happens. In fact, I wrote in the original post it does happen. What I’m saying (and what I think Golic is saying) is this it’s not normal, nor should be accepted. I can’t speak to your experience at GSU. As for Ealey, again, I think he’s intentionally downplaying it because: 1) That’s the smart thing to do; 2) Richt told him that’s the smart thing to do. I also think it will be a major part of the discussion in the locker room next season (not that it necessarily will make a difference in the outcome, of course).

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
3:54 pm

Falcon Sam — Got it.

Jive Lady

November 4th, 2009
4:19 pm

Not just Roasted Falcon, but ‘day old’ – sounds tough…What it boils down to is Brandon Spikes got caught, not by the ‘new improved SEC refs’ but by the cameras…His reputation is damaged, his coach gave him a 1/2 game suspension and when the shoe is on the other foot people react differently to such indiscretions…I didn’t hear Golic’s comments, but unless he described similar situations during his college and professional playing days, he comes off as either having an agenda or rather naive – neither of which I would have usually believed of him…

Ted Striker

November 4th, 2009
4:20 pm

Can’t believe folks are knocking Mike Golic.

Even if you don’t respect the dude for playing in the NFL — and even if you don’t like M&M in the morning — surely to god you can appreciate someone who got paid big bucks to take off 50 pounds with Nutrisystem.

BigTimeTECHFan

November 4th, 2009
5:12 pm

Man look hard for Falcons, but good thing is Giants, Eagles, Cowboys have tuff road ahead:
Wash = Win (5-3)
@ Carolina = Loss (5-4)
@ NY Giants = Loss (5-5)
Tampa = Win (6-5)
Philly = Win (7-5)
Saints = Win (8-5)
@ NY Jets = Win (9-5)
Buff = Win (10-5)
@ Tampa = Win (11-5)

Key will be back to back wins vs Eagles and Saints

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 4th, 2009
5:41 pm

bob horner stayed hurt

November 4th, 2009
11:50 am
I notice you have the Eagles as the projected winner of the NFC east…as a Falcons fan I want Dallas to win the East….Dallas next 2 games are against Philly and GB….I hope they win both of those games…Atlanta plays Philly so we can win that game and have that tie breaker….there is so much football left…..it’s fun to talk about…let’s beat Washington

These sorry Falcons couldn’t beat the Eagles if they spotted them 2 touch downs – Lay off of the crack buddy.

Eagles 45

Falcons 17

Alan

November 4th, 2009
5:58 pm

First goal is an above .500 finish, 2nd , is a playoff spot , third is the divison champioship. Have faith and support this young team. GO FALCONS-GO SOUTHERN RUSH.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 4th, 2009
6:24 pm

Not looking too good on the injury report:

Hypothetically speaking, Falcons all banged up

November 4, 2009 5:49 PM

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

The Falcons didn’t practice Wednesday, but, if they had about a quarter of the team would have been out with injuries.

Don’t read too much into this yet because it’s just one of those weird things that comes along every now and then when NFL rules and reality get tangled together. Even though the Falcons, who played Monday night, did not take the practice field Wednesday, they had to file an official injury report.

So how do they determine who “practiced’’ and who did not? They have to estimate. They put out a list of 12 guys who they said would not have practiced if the team had practiced.

Defensive end John Abraham (foot), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (ankle), offensive tackle Sam Baker (ankle), receiver Brian Finneran (ankle), defensive tackle Thomas Johnson (calf), linebacker Curtis Lofton (knee/ankle), running back Jerious Norwood (hip), long-snapper Mike Schneck (ribs), running back Jason Snelling (hamstring), receiver Eric Weems (ankle), receiver Roddy White (knee) and tight end Keith Zinger (back) would not have practiced — if there had been practice.

Some very significant names on that list. But don’t get too worried just yet. Remember, this is only an estimate. The real test will come Thursday when the Falcons really practice and we find out how many of these guys practiced.

gdg73

November 4th, 2009
8:47 pm

Schultz, did Turner run hard enough for you?

Jeff Schultz

November 4th, 2009
9:50 pm

GDG73 — Turner ran great. Ran harder, hit hole faster and cut better than he had all year.

scottbravesfan

November 5th, 2009
1:51 am

I think Dallas is going to win the NFC East. I don’t think the Eagles are all that good and neither are the Giants.

IceFan

November 5th, 2009
8:16 am

10-6 and we get into the playoffs by beating the Eagles.

Jeff Schultz

November 5th, 2009
8:34 am

ScottBravesFan — I still look at Cowboys and see Wade Phillips and Tony Romo and think: fail.

VA

November 6th, 2009
5:46 pm

The Falcons are Fine. Their needs are for Turner to be Turner and run the ball more effectively. Secondly, they need another “glue”handed receiver to compliment White and Tony G. Ryan, I would not trade for ANYONE. The birds are building, continue to impress and WILL be soon be knocking off teams that they have to beat.

Think back and how far we have come.

Ross

November 13th, 2009
7:09 pm

I wonder to what charity Smitty is going to contribute $15k?

“Smitty” – man it’s cool to have a coach with a nickname.