Skip to main content

Playoff push: What the Falcons need to happen in Week 18 to make 2023 postseason

The Falcons are 7-9 heading into Week 18 and still have a chance to make the playoffs. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — So, you're telling me there's still a chance?

The Atlanta Falcons lost their Week 17 game to the Chicago Bears last Sunday at Soldier Field, yet the Falcons' path to the postseason is clearer and better entering Week 18.

According to the New York Times playoff simulator, the Falcons have a 17% chance of making the playoffs by winning the NFC South. The wild card is no longer an option. That's still 5% better than last week.

"We have life," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "However crazy it played out, that is what the situation is."

The reason the Falcons' outlook improved despite their loss is actually in thanks to this Sunday's opponent, the New Orleans Saints. Because the Saints beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend, that prevented the Buccaneers from clinching the NFC South. The Buccaneers have another opportunity to do so this weekend, though, with a win over the Carolina Panthers.

So, here's what the Falcons need to happen in Week 18 to claim the division and join the playoffs: The Buccaneers lose to the Panthers. The Falcons beat the Saints. Simple as that.

The reasoning is a bit more complicated.

If the Buccaneers lose to the Panthers, whoever wins between the Saints and Falcons takes the NFC South. The Saints would claim the division title because they'd have the best record at 9-8, while the Falcons would be 7-10 and the Buccaneers would be 8-9. The Falcons would take the crown because the three teams would be tied at 8-9 and Atlanta holds the tiebreaker based on head-to-head records (Falcons vs. Saints/Buccaneers: 3-1, Buccaneers vs. Falcons/Saints: 2-2 and Saints vs. Falcons/Buccaneers: 1-3).

Remember, none of this matters if the Buccaneers beat the Panthers.

Of course, for that reason, both the Falcons-Saints and Buccaneers-Panthers games are scheduled Sunday for 1 p.m. ET. The Falcons-Saints game will be played in New Orleans at the Caesars Superdome, with coverage airing live on CBS. The Buccaneers-Panthers game will be played in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Bank of America Stadium, with coverage airing live on FOX.

The Saints are the only team riding a victory into Week 18 matchups.

"Anytime we play New Orleans, it's a big deal," Smith said. "Certainly, this game has a lot on the line. I know some of it is out of our control, but again, that's our own doing, right? To not control your own (destiny). But we have to be ready to go, put everything we've got and go beat New Orleans."

Related Content