LIVE: Falcons still solid for playoffs (if they beat Titans)

Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who aggravated his hamstring strain last week, will not play today against Tennessee.

Julio Jones, who aggravated his hamstring strain last week, will not play today against Tennessee. (AP photo)

With the hangover from last week’s fourth-and-one and the Falcons’ loss to New Orleans subsided, its worth noting: This team is still in pretty good shape for the playoffs.

Just don’t lose to Tennessee today.

The Falcons (5-4) already have one more loss than last season (13-3). But their remaining schedule and the current standings suggests they’re still in solid position to win an NFC wild card berth and can still catch New Orleans (7-3) for the South title.

The Saints have a bye this week. They come out of the off week with home games against the New York Giants and Detroit and then travel to Tennessee. The Falcons travel to New Orleans on Dec. 26. If they win today and can stay within one game of the lead, that game will mean something.

Here’s a mini-breakdown of the wild card race. I’m projecting Chicago (6-3), which has won four straight and five of six, will get one of the two spots. That means the other berth likely will go to one of four teams: the Falcons (or New Orleans), Detroit (6-3), Dallas (5-4) and Tampa Bay (4-5).

Here’s the NFC playoff standings right now, factoring in tiebreakers, via the NFL. The top four seeds would be division winners Green Bay (North), San Francisco (West), New Orleans (South) and the New York Giants (East). The top five wild card contenders are in red.


NFC Team Div W L T Pct PF PA Net
Div Pct Conf Pct Non-Conf
1. Green Bay Packers North 9 0 0 1.000 320 186 134 3-0 1.000 7-0 1.000 2-0
2. San Francisco 49ers West 8 1 0 .889 233 138 95 1-0 1.000 6-1 .857 2-0
3. New Orleans Saints South 7 3 0 .700 313 228 85 3-1 .750 4-3 .571 3-0
4. New York Giants East 6 3 0 .667 218 211 7 1-1 .500 3-3 .500 3-0
5. Detroit Lions North 6 3 0 .667 252 184 68 2-1 .667 4-3 .571 2-0
6. Chicago Bears North 6 3 0 .667 237 187 50 2-2 .500 6-3 .667 0-0
7. Dallas Cowboys East 5 4 0 .556 223 182 41 1-1 .500 4-2 .667 1-2
8. Atlanta Falcons South 5 4 0 .556 212 196 16 1-2 .333 4-4 .500 1-0
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers South 4 5 0 .444 156 233 -77 2-1 .667 3-4 .429 1-1
10. Seattle Seahawks West 3 6 0 .333 144 202 -58 1-1 .500 2-3 .400 1-3
11. Arizona Cardinals West 3 6 0 .333 183 213 -30 1-1 .500 3-4 .429 0-2
12. Philadelphia Eagles East 3 6 0 .333 220 203 17 2-1 .667 3-5 .375 0-1
13. Washington Redskins East 3 6 0 .333 136 178 -42 1-2 .333 3-4 .429 0-2
14. Minnesota Vikings North 2 7 0 .222 179 244 -65 0-4 .000 2-5 .286 0-2
15. St. Louis Rams West 2 7 0 .222 113 223 -110 0-1 .000 1-6 .143 1-1
16. Carolina Panthers South 2 7 0 .222 190 237 -47 0-2 .000 1-6 .143 1-1

The Falcons’ remaining schedule is favorable.  They play home games against Tennessee (5-4), Minnesota (2-7), Jacksonville (3-6) and Tampa Bay (4-5); road games against Houston (7-3), Carolina (2-7) and New Orleans (7-3).  Only three of of the seven opponents have winning records. One is the Titans and the Falcons get them at home. Another is Houston, which has likely lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the season. The third is the Saints.

Back to today’s game. It’s not a likely walkover, especially if Tennessee can run as well as it did last week against Carolina (Chris Johnson rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown). But the Falcons have been strong against the run (No. 3 in the NFL at 90.3 yards per game). Conversely, the Titans’ defense ranks only 22nd against the run (125.2) so expect a heavy dose of Michael Turner.

An efficient game by quarterback Matt Ryan also would help. He has four interceptions in the last three games and has thrown in at least one interception in seven out of nine games this year. He already has thrown one more interception (10) than all of last season (nine) and is four off his career high (14 in 2009). He also has been sacked 20 times, three off his career high of 23 last season.

Some late injury notes: wide receiver Julio Jones will not play today because of a hamstring strain, meaning Harry Douglas will start. The Falcons had listed Jones as “questionable,” which seemed optimistic given that he didn’t practice all week.

By the way, the Falcons are 3-0 this season after losses and are 15-3 under coach Mike Smith following defeats, with seven straight wins dating back to 2009.

That’s it for now. Feel free to vent on all thoughts and concerns about today and the playoff race while I get something to eat. And coffee.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

914 comments Add your comment

Michael G.

November 20th, 2011
3:08 pm

DaltonFalcon

November 20th, 2011
3:10 pm

We’d better win or we won’t be making the playoffs this year. Go Falcon!

DaltonFalcon

November 20th, 2011
3:11 pm

Correction. GO FALCONS!

dumb

November 20th, 2011
3:13 pm

Michael Turner…… zzzzzzzzzzz

Sam

November 20th, 2011
3:13 pm

MM better bring his best play calling. It’s so sad that there’s no one else who can start over Dunta and Decoud. They’re going to get beat all daylong

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
3:17 pm

HI boys ready for some football for MONEY?

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
3:18 pm

Falcons official inactive list: Julio Jones, William Moore, Darrin Walls, Brett Romberg, Sam Baker, Carlton Powell, Cliff Matthews.

Vain Jangling

November 20th, 2011
3:19 pm

A Reuben sandwich would be good right about now.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

November 20th, 2011
3:30 pm

Did you like today’s meal?

Noodle Arm Can't Win Big Games

November 20th, 2011
3:33 pm

TIME FOR NOODLE ARM AND THE MORON ATLANTA COACHING STAFF TO CONTINUE RUNNING THIS PROGRAM INTO THE GROUND

TITANS 27
FALCONS 17

Noodle Arm Can't Win Big Games

November 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

HEY ITS 4TH AND INCHES IN OVERTIME OF THE BIGGEST DIVISION GAME OF THE YEAR AND WE ARE DEEP IN OUR OWN TERRITORY

BETTER HAND OFF 5 YARDS DEEP IN THE BACKFIELD TO MY RUMBLING TANK OF A TAILBACK WHO TAKES 3 SECONDS JUST TO GET BACK TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE.

YEAH THAT SHOULD WORK.

Willie Martinez

November 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

I see Scam Newton, you new prototype of QBs to come in the future, has a couple of picks to go this is buck seventy five yards, but he is the best 2-8 QB I personally have ever seen. Looks Like Andy Dalton, is about to lock up the ROY.

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
3:46 pm

Maybe BULL COX can get a few more carries and a pass out of the backfield. I know he can PASS BLOCK.
Give’m Hell BULL COX.

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
3:48 pm

D.O.L……………Jeff likes Wine and Cheese it is the European thing his mom taught him(God rest Her Soul).

MV7

November 20th, 2011
3:49 pm

Yea, this coaching staff is just running that 4-12 program they inherited into the ground. They have not been able to turn it around like Cam is doing in up there in North Carolina. Pretty sad when you take the #1 QB, and still are in the Andrew Luck Derby.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

Vain Jangling — Nothing like a good reuben.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

D. Orlando Ledetter — You have something on your chin.

Noodle Arm Can't Win Big Games

November 20th, 2011
3:53 pm

HEY LETS TOTALLY PISS AWAY NEXT YEARS DRAFT BY GIVING ALL OUR PICKS AWAY SO WE CAN NAB THIS ROOKIE DEEP THREAT RECEIVER THAT CANT STAY HEALTHY

NEVERMIND THAT WE NEED TO IMPROVE OUR O-LINE AND PASS RUSH OR THAT OUR NOODLE ARM QB CANT THROW A PASS MORE THAN 15 YARDS, SO HAVING A DEEP THREAT RECEIVER IS TOTALLY POINTLESS

SOUNDS GOOD. LETS GO FOR IT.

J.J.M.

November 20th, 2011
3:57 pm

julio jones will be injury prone throughout his career

Vain Jangling

November 20th, 2011
3:58 pm

The “Caps Lock” button is about half way down the keyboard on the left.

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
3:58 pm

Jeff I like Ruben but his Wife is HOT and lets me melt on her buns! LOL
DID you just see the Bengals TD catch? OMG what talent.

J.J.M.

November 20th, 2011
4:05 pm

do we have to keep watching this game!

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
4:06 pm

JJM don’t poke your eyes out just yet. Save that for the UGA v LSU game in the dome in a few weeks.

mountain_jim

November 20th, 2011
4:08 pm

Mularkey – I am watching you today.

Let Matt call the plays.

Sam

November 20th, 2011
4:09 pm

Are the teams out on the field warming up still or what? CBS is still showing the Bungels versus the Edgar Allen Poes. Hopefully they will hold up the game in Atlanta… but I am doubting it!

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

5150 — Missed. But just saw Lions/Packers score TDs almost simultaneously on 2 TV screens in press box.

Steve

November 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Any predictions on the UGA/Tech betting line? I’d guess UGA – 7.

Freddie the falcon

November 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

Jones and Baker are soft. Both went higher in the draft than they should have. If I’m Mr. Blank paying all that money, then inexpect them on the field Sunday. Or they should have to pay him back.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:13 pm

Steve — I’d guess 10 to 12.

Sam

November 20th, 2011
4:13 pm

Way to go CBS!! Due to contractual terms here comes the Falcons vs. Titans!! By the way, Andy Dalton is fantastic…and he’s doing it without A.J. (the best rookie WR in the league, not Julio).

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:14 pm

Freddie the Falcon — There’s a difference between “soft” and “injury prone.” Julio has been the latter.

J.J.M.

November 20th, 2011
4:15 pm

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Titans will be penalized on return.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

November 20th, 2011
4:17 pm

Still think trading away the 2012 draft was worth it?

So CHOKE will be 27 and still no playoff wins.

HA HA HA and you clowns said I was crazy for calling him a bust :)

dre

November 20th, 2011
4:17 pm

What’s today’s date!? A blog in the AJC where some small town pinhead didn’t yell “first?!” A day to remember, indeed!

Steve

November 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

Hope you are right Jeff! UGA 31 Tech 17. Go Falcons!

Noodle Arm Can't Win Big Games

November 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

NO RECEIVER WITHIN 30 YARDS

LOOKS LIKE HE’S BEEN GETTING PASSING TIPS FROM MATTY ICE

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:18 pm

Hasselbeck looked a little spooked on that. Yikes.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:19 pm

And now, in the role of Matt Bosher . . .

Tomahawkin

November 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

I have a Feeling In My Big Boy Gut That we lose This One! We are too banged up!!!

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

DID the Titans get the TECH punter to play today?

J.J.M.

November 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

only use the flats with quizz turner cant catch

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:20 pm

Good switchup by Ryan as Titans showed blitz.

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
4:21 pm

I might be FAT but you can’t STOP ME TURNER for the 1st down.

J.J.M.

November 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

whats the name of the WR who broke his leg last year? he was a rookie

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:23 pm

Great instiincts by TG on that run after catch.

Mtn Falcon

November 20th, 2011
4:23 pm

Why does the field look so shiny and strange.

Jeff Schultz

November 20th, 2011
4:23 pm

Can you script a more perfect start for Falcons? Great decision making by Ryan, and on target to TG. 7-0 (pending PAT).

Steve

November 20th, 2011
4:24 pm

Matt “choke” Ryan sure did look pretty good to me on that drive!

5150 UOAD

November 20th, 2011
4:24 pm

That is how you do it EARLY.

Problem is Mularkey will get Bobo STUPID for half the game.