Breaking it down, Falcons still have good shot at wild card

Don't worry, Arthur. I think your team might still make it.

Don't worry, Arthur. I think your team might still make it.

Not that there isn’t reason to be concerned about the Falcons, what with Matt Ryan struggling, and Michael Turner hobbling, and the defense never being that good to begin with, even before injuries.

But have you looked around? I just did.

For sake of argument, let’s give the four divisions in the NFC to New Orleans (South), Minnesota (North), Dallas (East) and Arizona (West). That leaves up to seven teams (I’m being generous) vying for two wild card berths in the conference. It’s way too early to get into tiebreakers, although it’s worth noting that losing to the New York Giants Sunday would hurt the Falcons in head-to-head scenarios. But you know what? The Giants may not even get that far.

Here’s the breakdown. I’m listing the teams in order of how I would rank their wild card chances.

♦ Green Bay (5-4): I’m betting the Packers are in. They have a relatively easy schedule with one very difficult game (at Pittsburgh). The others:  San Francisco, at Detroit, Baltimore, at Chicago, Seattle, at Arizona. Simplified projection: 5-2 and a final record of 10-6. Yes, Green Bay lost to Tampa Bay two weeks ago. But it bounced back to beat Dallas last week, and that team probably is closer to reality. The Packers are a solid team and they’re through the toughest part of their schedule. Translation: No more games against Brett Favre.

♦ Falcons  (5-4): Of their seven remaining games, four are against bad to less-than-average teams  (two against Tampa Bay, Buffalo, at the New York Jets) and three against good teams (at New York Giants, Philadelphia, New Orleans). That’s 9-7 in an oversimplified world. We can break this down a hundred ways, but the Falcons were not built to win low-scoring games. With Michael Turner out for one to seven weeks — I’m covering myself, because you’re not going to get an honest answer from anybody in Flowery Branch –  the onus is on Ryan and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to win games. I still think they’ve got a pretty good shot.

♦ N.Y. Giants (5-4): Hard to imagine but there’s a chance the Super Bowl champions from only two years ago may not make the playoffs. Their performance against the Falcons coming off the bye week will be interesting. Their defense has fallen apart. They’ve lost four straight, allowing 133 points (average: 33.2) in that span. They’ve already lost as many games as all of last year (12-4). The only other two times they lost four straight under coach Tom Coughlin, they missed the playoffs (2004 and 2006). The remaining schedule is about on the level of the Falcons’, maybe a little tougher: Atlanta, at Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, at Washington, Carolina, at Minnesota. Simplified projection: 4-3 the rest of the way, 9-7 in the end.

♦ Philadelphia (5-4): Could the Giants and Eagles both miss the playoffs? It doesn’t seem plausible. But Philly probably will have to do without running back Brian Westbrook the rest of the season. He just got his second concussion in four weeks, and, medically, this gets into an area of things that can’t be fixed with trainers tape, a shot and two pills. For the Eagles to recover from Westbrook’s loss, they need rookie LeSean “Shady” McCoy to do all the things Westbrook does: run, catch, block. He’s not there yet. The remaining schedule is about like the Falcons: at Chicago, Washington, at Falcons, at Giants, San Francisco, Denver, at Dallas. Simplified projection: 4-3 the rest of the way, 9-7 in the end.

♦ Carolina (4-5): The Falcons had multiple opportunities to win the game Sunday. The Panthers are helped by a great running back (DeAngelo Williams) and the fact quarterback Jake Delhomme has cut down on interceptions. But they’re still a very average team with a less-than-average defense. Even Jason Snelling, the Falcons’ third-best tailback, ran the ball effectively against them. And look at the last four games on the Panthers’ schedule: at New England, Minnesota, at New York Giants, New Orleans. The other three: Miami, at New York Jets, Tampa Bay. Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

♦ San Francisco (4-5): The 49ers play hard, largely because they’re scared to death of coach Mike Singletary. They’re just not that good. The offense ranks 27th overall, the defense is 29th against the pass. Remember, the Falcons tore this team apart. Remaining games: at Green Bay, Jacksonville, at Seattle, Arizona, at Philadelphia, Detroit, at St. Louis). Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

♦ Chicago (4-5): I just can’t see quarterback Jay Cutler leading the Bears anywhere except into the ground. He threw five interceptions last week and leads the NFL with 17. The Bears’ defense is solid but not nearly as effective without Brian Urlacher. The remaining schedule is difficult: Philadelphia, at Minnesota, St. Louis, Green Bay, at Baltimore, Minnesota, at Detroit. Simplified projection: 3-4 the rest of the way, 7-9 in the end.

So there’s my ranking. Agree or disagree?

244 comments Add your comment

Slick Willie

November 18th, 2009
9:07 am

Slick Willie

November 18th, 2009
9:07 am

Brian

November 18th, 2009
9:07 am

What about Philly

Paul H

November 18th, 2009
9:07 am

If we lose Sunday then folks are going to start wondering if we’re even going to finally break our streak of non back-to-back winning seasons.

Eric P.

November 18th, 2009
9:10 am

I like it. Go Falcons!

David

November 18th, 2009
9:11 am

I think Philly will be in the scenario as well… sure would be nice to have head to head victories over them and the Giants when it comes down to tiebreakers…. We’re behind you Mattie Ice

tech

November 18th, 2009
9:12 am

Jeff Schultz

November 18th, 2009
9:13 am

Guys — Somehow Philly got deleted … I’ll repost shortly

David

November 18th, 2009
9:14 am

What’s the status on Finneran and Norwood?

EW

November 18th, 2009
9:20 am

Hate to say it but as bad as the G men have looked I think they blow us out this weekend. They are balanced and I don’t see our D stopping them. They will have an extra week of rest and I think their D challenges Matt Ryan to beat them with our running game hobbled. Don’t think Matty can do it alone. I hoping for different but that’s my realistic feeling.

Jeff Schultz

November 18th, 2009
9:27 am

Sorry about that with the Eagles . . .

David — The Falcons don’t let me into the trainer’s room. First injury report comes out today. Main practices are Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The Grinch

November 18th, 2009
9:28 am

The Falcons are simply too beat up to continue covering their deficiencies. I hope I’m wrong, and Smitty gets them motivated enough to avoid the franchise curse. We shall see. This team has a positive quality about it; previous incarnations would have collapsed after the first couple of injuries.

Ricky

November 18th, 2009
9:30 am

Philadelphia is 5-4 with games left against Bears, Redskins, Falcons, Giants, 49ers, Broncos, and Cowboys. They beat the Bears, Redskins, Giants, and 49ers and lose the rest, that is a 9-7 finish…………!!! We are really going to need the W on December 6th against the Eagles if it comes down to head to head….!!

Italian Fan

November 18th, 2009
9:34 am

I really think next sunday game against the Giants will be the most important one. You lose, than you’re behind them in terms of tiebreaker and lose another dose of confidence, win it and you’ll watch the rest of your schedule in a very calm way, thinking it’ll be enough win out your 4 home games remaining (not counting a trip to Tampa).
I think this will be the very pivotal game in our season. Let’s fight!

Absolute

November 18th, 2009
9:36 am

I agree. I think we will get one of the 2 WC spots. I’d love to see us beat the G-Men again and get revenge on Philly (I believe we would have beat them last year if not for that muffed call by the refs).

Vick Supporter

November 18th, 2009
9:37 am

Crunch time

November 18th, 2009
9:38 am

When everyone was raving about Matt Ryan being the next Brady, I kept saying wait until he has to carry the team then we’ll see. Face it the falcons over acheived last year. It’s crazy to think you can go a full year without some major injuries, thats what happened last year.One thing Ryan hasn’t had to play through injury, We will soon find out how good or bad Ryan really is.

BravesFan79

November 18th, 2009
9:41 am

Huh? and here i thought (according to BCS supporters) that because we had a playoff system the regular season was meaningless….. doh!
Go Falcons….i think if we beat the Giants were in. And no way Green Bay gets in. The wildcard will go down to the Falcons, Giants, or Eagles.

matt r

November 18th, 2009
9:42 am

I would put GB 4th at best… losing to Tampa means any of those games (yes even Detroit) could end up being a loss. Atlanta is 4-0 at home, 1-4 on the road, and is heading to the Meadowlands twice. Thankfully the 2nd trip is against the team on the “easy” list, the Jets. We have to beat Philly and NYG for tiebreaker reasons, and if we can’t beat the playoff contenders, what’s the point of going to the playoffs?

ELVISINTHEHOUSE.

November 18th, 2009
9:47 am

Philly,Giants,Greenbay,then maybe MAYBE the falcons.i think the sorry birds go 8-8 9-7 at best and miss the playoffs.These folks are still giving ryan too much credit and no blame for the losses.At first turner got the blame and now people are saying its gonna be tough to win without him.Ryan throw a int it was the wr fault,he get sacked it was the line fault when in fact he held the ball too long or can’t run.He fard it was the teams fault.He won’t be what people make him out to be thats for sure.sorry since 1966 and still counting,mr blank you get short changed again.

kate gosselin

November 18th, 2009
9:49 am

Someone is gonna get hurt by constantly jumping on and off of the Falcons Bandwagon. Eli hasn’t won since that foot injury.

Mitchell T.

November 18th, 2009
9:50 am

In the Falcons I trust. I think they will find a way to get it done this year. Take care of the G-Men on Sunday and we’ll be in. They’ve taken a couple of lumps and lack a few key players, but they fight hard. Go birds!

buick59

November 18th, 2009
9:51 am

seen this all before. remember 2005 and 2006 they were in better position than they are now and we all know what happened. I predict they will lose all their road games including at Tampa and lose to the Saints at home. I believe this would be 8-8. This sad franchise will never change.

MR

November 18th, 2009
9:51 am

We all know that Matt Ryan is a bust. He has been in the league 1.5 years and just is not showing any improvement at all. Another Falcons draft bust. He should be as good as Brady and Manning(both) by now but he just can’t make it. He will never be a franchise QB. Start Redman. Do you people know just how stupid you sound? Crunch time you were so right….

BravesFan79

November 18th, 2009
9:55 am

Green Bay will not get to 10 wins, our biggest competition is Philly and the Giants!
GB plays Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore, at Chicago at Arizona. No way they don’t loose at least 3 games out of those 5. Now a Farve led Packers team i would almost consider a lock, but a Rodgers led Packers team…. i wouldnt put my $ on. Count GB only getting to 9 wins max!

An Observation

November 18th, 2009
9:59 am

I agree with the assessment of the remaining NFC schedule. All the injuries are starting to take a huge toll on the Falcons. I’m still hoping that they can recover soon and turn it around. I’m a Falcons’ fan no matter what happens this year (definitely not a fair weather fan here). It’s still a more competitive team than what we’ve had in recent years and it’s only the 2nd year under Coach MS and GM TD.

GO FALCONS!!!!

pilgrim

November 18th, 2009
10:02 am

I am an incurable fan going way back. With any other Falcons’ team, that Panther loss would torpedo the season. I will be very interested to see what Smith brings to NY.

Jeff, you said a couple of weeks ago that the “best” the Falcons could do was 6-3. That really irritated me. Now I’ll take it.

Sam

November 18th, 2009
10:04 am

Hey. Is Bubba Bean still around? Remember him?

Marzha

November 18th, 2009
10:07 am

The Falcons will die just like they do every season. Don’t get yourselves all excited for nothing, the Falcons aren’t worth it.

JB Wright

November 18th, 2009
10:09 am

Who cares? They won’t win a playoff game. If they could post back-to-back winning seasons it would be enough for me. This team had a shot last year, but the “Hometown Hero” screwed that up when he bit on a play fake on 3rd & 16 against the Cardinals.

kate gosselin

November 18th, 2009
10:12 am

Some of the same people that say Matt Ryan is a bust after 1.5 seasons are the same ones who say ” you can’t evaluate a draft class until 3 or 4 seasons. You can’t have it both ways people.

Some of you are immature like Jon. He wanted to have his “Kate” and eat it too.

Sonny Clusters

November 18th, 2009
10:14 am

We was wondering if Jeff has a suit like that?

Hollywould

November 18th, 2009
10:15 am

Huge game this week. A win and in pretty good shape. As far as the Packers, I don’t see them making it. Their offensive line is horrible, Rodgers is getting beaten up on every play. I hope Dallas does win the East as our loss to them could be crucial.

AthensSG

November 18th, 2009
10:17 am

Too many key injuries this year, along with a young defense. Unless the OC can counter the adjustments DCs have made for Matt Ryan, 8-8 will be hard to attain without Turner. Also, as much as I like seeing Norcross run the ball, isn’t it about time we give up on him. He is either seriously injury-prone or doesn’t have the toughness to play through minor injuries. In what, 4 seasons he doesn’t have the number of carries most backs get in one season …

Sonny Clusters

November 18th, 2009
10:18 am

“David — The Falcons don’t let me into the trainer’s room. First injury report comes out today. Main practices are Wednesdays and Thursdays.”- JS

Jeff, DOP or whatever his name is goes in the Braves locker room all the time and sees their hurts and reports on them. He may shower with them, too, we’re not sure. Is they a double standard at work here?

Hollywould

November 18th, 2009
10:20 am

Jeff, Packers do not get in. Worst offensive line in football. Rodgers won’t make it thru the season.
Must win this week for Falcons. Norwood needs to suck it up and play. I hope Dallas does win the east but my bet is on the Eagles. Our loss to Dallas could be crucial.

Hollywould

November 18th, 2009
10:21 am

sorry for the double post

The Dogfighter Returns

November 18th, 2009
10:22 am

If the falcons beat the bills, jets, and tampa twice they will definitely make the playoffs.

AthensSG

November 18th, 2009
10:27 am

Sonny sitting next to you, Jeff

Bill

November 18th, 2009
10:29 am

So essentially you’re saying that the niners will beat detroit, st louis, and jacksonville, but lose to:

Seattle, Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Arizona

^^ because all of these teams are powerhouses and never play bad games.

Right.

Tore my Clothes

November 18th, 2009
10:30 am

Fact is we would not be having this discussion if not for the performance of Matt Ryan. We all thought when the running game got going it would take the pressure off the passing game, but at New Orleans & Carolina the running game was great and Ice still threw deadly picks. That late pick against Carolina was very rookie-like (see Matt Stafford). #2 has got to get it going or we will be 8-8 and out.
But, this is typical of a second-year QB (a standard type, not the guy we had who could outrun everybody so his passing didn’t matter as much). And BTW, TD, where are this years draft picks? I know Jerry got hurt (but he had a history, remember), but where are the rest of these guys? Was this a wasted draft???
Falcons benefited from schedule last year, this year they are being exposed by it. Still need help in secondary, D-line & yes, O-line. This week at Giants can be a positive or negative turning point. And, oh yeah, it’s against YET ANOTHER TEAM WITH THEIR SEASON ON THE LINE COMING OFF A BYE WEEK. Great.

Singletary

November 18th, 2009
10:35 am

I’m no Jeff Schultz, but I’m having a hard time believing we are going to make the playoffs. Unless we knock out NOLA and both TBs, we just aren’t going to be dominant. Jets or Giants will be a trap game. Man, I’d really rather be playing the AFC and NFC West this year in light of all our injuries.

P.S. I’m no GM either. TD says this team is better than last year. but I almost rended my clothes on Draft Day 2008 when we didn’t take Dorsey.

A Rod

November 18th, 2009
10:36 am

I think philly is in. Guess it’s betweent the falcons and the giants, sunday’s game is huge. I dont see green bay beating baltimore, arizona, or pittsburg. I’ve seen them play and rogers holds on to the ball way too long. Plus they are a horrible road team, remember they lost to tampa, lol

Marcus

November 18th, 2009
10:38 am

ugh, that why that missed FG and/or toss in coverage vs. CAR hurt. 6-3 w/games vs.( a rested) NYG and PHI looks a lot better than 5-4 and a hobbled (if he can play) Burner Turner vs. the same teams. Our playoffs starts on Sunday. I agree w/Jeff, we go 9-7 but we will see if that is enough.

willdave

November 18th, 2009
10:40 am

Yeah, once again we have to lower our expectations for what appeared to be a very promising Atlanta sports team. What else is new? Seems like every week we lose at least one key player to injury. I know injuries are a part of the game, but, man, the Birds are dropping like flies this season. Do we need a new strength and conditioning coach?

Matt Ryan raises our expectations in 2008 by playing like a future Hall of Famer. Then decides to play like a second-year QB this year. But I still support him 100%. He’s still an asset to this team and our community. He’ll work out his problems sooner or later.

Anyway, wild card berth? 9-7 record? After the outrageous loss in Carolina over the weekend, neither is a guarantee. I agree with some of you: I’m not thinking about the playoffs any longer. Even if the Falcons did somehow manage to squeak in with an 8-8 or 9-7 record, they would almost surely suffer an embarrassing loss in the first round. No, I’m just hoping that they can somehow reach that elusive 9-7 mark and accomplish consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. That would be a huge accomplishment for this otherwise disappointing 2009 season. Then, maybe, just maybe, the ball will bounce better in the Birds’ favor next season and they can really accomplish something in 2010.

GO FALCONS!!!

bbspell22

November 18th, 2009
10:41 am

How in the world do the Falcons not go after Chris McAlister as bad as thier CB have been. Now the best team in the division (possibly the NFC) just got better…

Dr. Warren

November 18th, 2009
10:51 am

The fact is, the Falcons must go out and play and win those 4 or 5 games. Are they going to do it with mirrors?

Matt "Choke" Ryan

November 18th, 2009
11:01 am

Brandon Jacobs

6′4 272 lbs

4.4 forty

This could be very ugly.

trade bait

November 18th, 2009
11:02 am

i also second the comment and would like an educated response….why didnt the flacons go after McALister or even gosh forbid Larry Johnson with Turner hurt?….the Patriots have way of straightening bad seeds why can’t the falcons?…..and i think LJ was like 250K?….not a bad piece of insurance

dad gum

November 18th, 2009
11:03 am