Two months ago, there was great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game Dec. 6. Why? Because it would be Michael Vick’s return to Atlanta.
There should still be great anticipation for the Falcons-Philadelphia game. Why? Because if the Falcons don’t win that night, they may not make the playoffs.
Having lost four out of their last five games and dropping to 5-5, the Falcons logically are out of the NFC South race. They probably have to go at least 4-2 (maybe 5-1) in the final six games to win an NFC wild card spot. Strange things happen in the NFL. But the Falcons have made things difficult on themselves because they’ve already lost four NFC games and head-to-head meetings with the New York Giants (6-4) and Dallas Cowboys (7-3, a wild card competitor if they don’t win the NFC East). Losing to the Eagles (6-4) would significantly diminish chances of winning any tiebreaker scenarios.
In short, the Falcons haven’t left themselves any wiggle room. They still have at least three easily winnable games (two vs. Tampa Bay, one vs. Buffalo) and another one against the sliding New York Jets. But winning a playoff spot outright will be difficult.
As a follow up to last week, here’s another breakdown of how things look.
Seven for the wild cards
♦ 1. Philadelphia (6-4, 5-2): That was a big win for the Eagles over Chicago Sunday night because it raised their NFC record to 5-2, best among the wild card candidates. The Eagles have an easy game next week (Washington), then play the Falcons, Giants, 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys. But they’re still missing running back Brian Westbrook, whose status for the rest of the season is uncertain because of two concussions in a span of three weeks.
♦ 2. Green Bay (6-4 overall, 5-3 in NFC): It’s hard to see the Packers missing the playoffs. They have a better overall and conference record than the Falcons and four of the next five games are against the Lions (2-8), Ravens (5-5), Bears (4-5) and Seahawks (3-7).
♦ 3. N.Y. Giants (6-4, 4-3): They hold two tiebreaker edges over the Falcons (conference, head to head), but the schedule the next three weeks is rugged: at Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.
♦ 4. Falcons (5-5, 4-4): They’re 1-4 since a 4-1 start. That’s the wrong kind of turnaround. In addition to the poor conference record, they’re also only 1-5 on the road, but remaining road games against the N.Y. Jets and Tampa Bay both are winnable.
♦ 5. San Francisco (4-6, 4-3): The 49ers started the season 3-1 but are 1-5 since, and the slide started with a loss to the Falcons. But the next two games are against Jacksonville and Seattle, so they could hang around a while.
♦ 6. Carolina (4-6, 4-4): The Falcons have split two games with the Panthers. Carolina lost to Miami four days after beating the Falcons and could go 2-4 with this remaining schedule: at N.Y. Jets, Tampa Bay, at New England, Minnesota, at N.Y. Giants, New Orleans.
♦ 7. Chicago (4-6, 2-5): The Falcons actually hold two tiebreaker edges (conference, head to head) over the Bears. But at this point Chicago doesn’t look like a competitor, especially with a remaining schedule that includes two games against Minnesota and one against Green Bay.
So there’s this week’s update. How confident are you of the Falcons’ chances? I’ve also put up a poll.