It’s always obvious when NFL playoff time is nearing, because all of the crazy calculations and permutations of wins and losses begin popping up as to how teams can clinch a playoff berth. Heading into week 13, the Atlanta Falcons are one of the teams who find themselves able to clinch seat at the post-season table.
The 10-1 Falcons have a comfortable lead in the NFC South, and are headed into a Thursday Night Football clash with their division rival, the New Orleans Saints. The significance of this game is beyond the normal range of just wanting to beat the hated Saints, with division and playoff implications on the line.
Here are the scenarios that would give Atlanta either a division title, or at least a guaranteed spot in the playoffs:
Falcons clinch the NFC South title with:
1. Atlanta win + Tampa Bay Buccaneers tie OR
2. Atlanta tie + Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss
Just for the record, am I the only one who is bothered by the fact that we are still talking about “ties” in the NFL. But, I digress…
The Buccaneers travel to play at the Denver Broncos at 4:00 p.m., Sunday, and the Seahawks play at home against the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m.. Losses by either or both of those teams are well within a strong realm of possibility.
With a playoff berth almost certain for the Falcons, it would seem that clinching the NFC South would be first on their to-do list, and then working on clinching home field advantage and a first round playoff bye. The San Francisco 49ers, who are right behind the Falcons for that spot, are playing at the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in a 1:00 p.m. game.