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NFC South playoff picture: Who Falcons fans should root for during Week 16 action

The remaining three games of the regular season will be vital for the NFC South, with all four teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Buccaneers currently sit atop the division at 6-8, with the Panthers, Falcons, and Saints all at 5-9. Though, it's any team's division for the taking. Who wins the division will be contingent upon how these last three games play out.


Despite Atlanta losing five of its last six games, making the playoffs isn't necessarily out of the picture. For the Falcons to have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, they have to win the division. And they need lots of help to win it. The Falcons will lose any tiebreaker scenario to other teams in the division, so they need to be the only team at 8-9. That means the Falcons need every other team to lose. They need the Saints and Panthers to lose once and Tampa Bay to lose twice -- the Falcons can hand them one in Week 18 -- AND they need to win out to claim the division.

But, instead of thinking ahead about the postseason, head coach Arthur Smith is focused on the challenge against Baltimore on Saturday.

"We were in the same spot last week where you get in all the bizarre scenarios around us, but most importantly we've got to find a way to win," Smith said on Tuesday, "And that's all that we're concerned about Baltimore and the challenge and not letting the other things distract us. There is always a great test at the end of the year, especially this week. You're playing on a short week. Everybody's in the middle of the holiday season. All the other things that can creep in. It's our job as professionals to be really focused at the task at hand and see if we can improve and go get a win again."

While watching Atlanta face Baltimore on Christmas Eve, here are three games Falcons fans should monitor and why they're important:

New Orleans Saints vs. Cleveland Browns

When: Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET

Where to watch: CBS

Why it's important: The Saints have a tough three-game slate ahead of them, facing the Cleveland Browns first. The Browns have won two of their last three matchups with quarterback Deshaun Watson back in the mix. For the Saints to be completely eliminated from playoff contention, all they have to do is lose one of their three remaining games which is a very likely chance. They play the Eagles and Panthers after the Browns.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals

When: Sunday at 8:20 p.m. ET

Where to watch: NBC

Why it's important: The Buccaneers have struggled recently losing three of their last four games. If they continue this trend, there's a possibility Tampa could be eliminated from the playoffs, even though they're favored to win the division. Their remaining schedule includes playing the Cardinals, Panthers, and Falcons. The Cardinals need to win in order for Atlanta to keep their playoff hopes alive. For the Buccaneers to be eliminated from playoff contention, they would need to lose their last three games and the Falcons would have to win their last three games. The Panthers need to win at least two more games, including the one against Tampa Bay in Week 17.

Carolina Panthers vs. Detroit Lions

When: Saturday at 1:00 p.m. ET

Where to watch: FOX

Why it's important: The Panthers and Falcons have the same record at 5-9. With a Panthers loss to the Lions, and a Falcons win, Carolina could be on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs and wild-card standings. The Lions have been playing really good football winning three straight games. Losing to Detroit is a very likely possibility.

NFL Tie Breaking Procedure

There is a possibility a division tiebreaker could happen. If that is the case, the NFL's tie breaking procedure states that if two or more clubs finish with the same won-lost-tied percentages, then the tie breaking procedure will be enforced. Both Carolina and Tampa Bay are currently 3-1 in the division. You can read how that procedure works here.

1125 x 663 (MKT TIle) (2x)

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