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Every possible first-round playoff scenario for the Falcons and how the matchup can happen


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons will clinch the No. 6 seed in the playoffs with a win against the Panthers on Sunday or a loss by the Seahawks. Their path to the postseason is simple, but determining who the Falcons might face in the first round is bit more complex.

Depending on how Week 17 shakes out, the Falcons could potentially play four of the five NFC playoff teams on Wild Card Weekend in the No. 6 seed vs. No. 3 seed matchup.

The only team the Falcons are guaranteed to avoid is the Eagles, who have locked up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.

Here are the possible first-round matchups for the Falcons if they make the postseason along with the probability of each matchup, according to Football Outsiders:

Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

Probability of earning No. 3 seed: 90.6 percent

How this matchup happens:If the Falcons earn a playoff spot this weekend, the Rams are their most likely opponent. All Los Angeles must do to secure the No. 3 seed in the postseason is win at home against the 49ers in Week 17. If the Rams lose their finale, however, they would need both the Panthers and the Saints to lose to maintain their spot as the No. 3 seed.

New Orleans Saints (11-4)

Probability of earning No. 3 seed:7.9 percent

How this matchup happens:Atlanta would make another trip to New Orleans in the wild-card round if the Saints win on the road against the Buccaneers on Sunday and the Rams lose at home against the 49ers.

Carolina Panthers (11-4)

Probability of earning No. 3 seed:1.2 percent

How this matchup happens:It's possible, albeit unlikely, that the Falcons and Panthers square off in back-to-back weeks. For these two division foes to play each other in the first round of the playoffs, the Panthers would need to beat the Falcons – meaning the Seahawks would need to lose for this scenario to play out – the Buccaneers would need to beat the Saints, the 49ers would need to beat the Rams and the Vikings would need to beat the Bears.

Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

Probability of earning No. 3 seed:0.3 percent How this matchup happens:A lot would need to happen for the Vikings to land in the No. 3 seed, but it's not impossible. The only way this scenario happens is if the Vikings finish in a two-way tie with the Panthers, giving Carolina the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Vikings would need to lose at home against the Bears, the 49ers would need to beat the Rams on the road, the Panthers would need to beat the Falcons on the road and the Buccaneers would need to beat the Saints at home for Minnesota to fall into the third NFC playoff spot.

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