While the Falcons have done a good job this season not looking beyond the next game — in this case, tonight’s meeting with the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome — it doesn’t have to stop us from looking ahead, does it?
So here’s the question: Which team would you rather see the Falcons play in their first playoff game: The Saints for the third time or the Green Bay Packers for the second? Because it’s likely to be one of those two.
The Falcons will lock up the NFC’s top seed with a win either tonight or next week against Carolina. Pending the outcome of Philadelphia’s postponed home game against Minnesota, which has been rescheduled for Tuesday night, this is how the standings in the NFC lay out right now:
♦ 1. Falcons (12-2): Bye.
♦ 2. Philadelphia (10-4) or Chicago (11-4): Bye.
♦ 3. Chicago or Philadelphia.
♦ 4. St. Louis (7-8).
♦ 5. New Orleans (10-4).
♦ 6. Green Bay/N.Y. Giants/Tampa Bay (9-6). (Green Bay controls its own destiny. It’s in the playoffs if it defeats visiting Chicago next week, or if New York and Tampa Bay both lose.)
Let’s assume for now that the Eagles — who have home games remaining against the Vikings and Dallas — win the No. 2 seed and the bye. In that scenario, the Packers (or Giants or Buccaneers) travel to Chicago in the first round and New Orleans travels to St. Louis. If the Saints and Bears win, the top four seeds in the next round would be: Falcons-Eagles-Bears-Saints. New Orleans would return to the Georgia Dome for the NFC semifinal.
If the Packers (or Giants or Bucs) defeat Chicago, and the Saints win at St. Louis, the seeding becomes: Falcons-Eagles-Saints-Packers. In that scenario, the Falcons play Green Bay and New Orleans travels to Philadelphia.
The best case scenario for the Falcons is that the Nos. 3 (Chicago or Philadelphia) and 4 (St. Louis) seeds win. (The Rams get a No. 4 seed despite its current 7-8 record for winning the NFC West). If that happens, The Rams come to Atlanta. But most aren’t expecting that.
So assuming its the Saints or Packers, which opponent would you rather see? The Falcons are 1-0 against each, defeating the Saints 27-24 in overtime in September, and the Packers 20-17 Nov. 28.
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