The 2014 NFL Playoffs kick off in 18 days on Jan. 3. What remains to be seen in the NFC South, however, is which of the three eligible teams, Falcons, Saints and Panthers, will punch their ticket to the postseason as the division winner.
"When it's all said and done, you're not going to remember what your seed was (or) what your record was," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Monday. "It's that you're in the second season. That's our goal every single year and the easiest way, and the clearest path to the second season is to win your division."
Following Monday night's 31-15 victory over the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints moved to 6-8, first place in the NFC South. In second place are the Carolina Panthers (5-8-1), followed by the Falcons (5-9).
Entering Week 16, here are the current scenarios for the three clubs as their division-title hopes are still alive.
The Atlanta Falcons can clinch the NFC South IF:
They win in New Orleans on Sunday and defeat the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Week 17.
Should a tie occur between the Falcons and Panthers in Week 17, Carolina would win the division based upon league tiebreaker rules.
The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South IF:
They win their final two games, home against Cleveland in Week 16 and at Atlanta in Week 17, and hope the Saints lose once within the next two weeks.
The New Orleans Saints can clinch the NFC South IF:
They defeat the Falcons on Sunday and win their road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17
They beat the Falcons, combined with the Carolina Panthers losing one more game, either at home against Cleveland this week or at Atlanta in Week 17
They lose to the Falcons on Sunday but defeat Tampa Bay in Week 17, combined with a Panthers loss in Week 16 and a Falcons loss in Week 17