FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A win against the Saints helped push the Falcons back into the projected playoff picture, but with three games to go they must take care of business down the stretch to secure a postseason berth.
The Falcons (8-5) got an opportunity to rest and recover over a mini-bye week heading into their Monday night matchup with the Buccaneers (4-9).
Prior to the "Monday Night Football" game between the Falcons and Bucs, there are plenty of quality games with major NFC playoff implications for fans to pay attention to. Here are seven* *games that Falcons fans need to keep an eye on this weekend:
Bears (4-9) at Lions (7-6) Time:Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
The Bears have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but they can deliver a serious blow to the Lions on Saturday afternoon. Detroit remains on the fringe of the playoff picture, but it really has to win out to have a legitimate shot at getting into the postseason.
Packers (7-6) at Panthers (9-4) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
One of the best games of the weekend has direct implications for the Falcons. Both the Packers and the Panthers remain in the playoff hunt, with Carolina currently projected to be the No. 5 seed. The return of Aaron Rodgers for the Packers adds another level of intrigue to this game and gives them a serious chance to win on the road.
The Falcons hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Packers, which could come into play if Green Bay goes on a run, and they have one game remaining against the Panthers. Still, a win by the Packers would be the best short-term outcome.
Bengals (5-8) at Vikings (10-3) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Vikings can clinch the NFC North and a playoff spot with a win this weekend, but even with a loss there are still several scenarios that would allow them to clinch a postseason berth. It would take a mighty collapse for Minnesota to miss the playoffs altogether, so it appears to be playing for seeding at this point. A win would keep the Vikings in play for the No. 1 seed, but a loss coupled with an Eagles win would mean that Philadelphia clinches the top seed.
Jets (5-8) at Saints (9-4) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
While the Falcons can repeat as division champs if they run the table over the next three weeks, they will welcome all the help they can get. The Jets can play spoiler on the road in Week 15 by knocking off the Saints and making things even tighter in the NFC South.
Eagles (11-2) at Giants (2-11) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
This is not a great matchup on paper, but there are a few interesting reasons to tune in. First, the Eagles will play their first game this season with Nick Foles starting behind center instead of Carson Wentz. The absence of Wentz is a big story heading into the postseason, but Foles has experience and may be able to do enough to help keep the Eagles rolling along. The other main reason to keep an eye on this game is that Philadelphia can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win and a Vikings loss.
Rams (9-4) at Seahawks (8-5) Time:Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)
The Seahawks' loss against the Jaguars in Week 14 helped the Falcons climb back into a projected playoff spot and another loss may provide some breathing room. Los Angeles will attempt to bounce back from a loss in a back-and-forth game against Philadelphia and can secure a spot in the postseason with a victory and losses by four other teams, including Atlanta.
Cowboys (7-6) at Raiders (6-7) Time:Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Like the Lions and the Packers, the Cowboys are still alive in the playoff picture but they need some help to make a serious run. One thing that works in Dallas' favor, however, is that star running back Ezekiel Elliott can return for the team's final two games of the season. His looming return makes Sunday night even more important for the Cowboys to keep pace and remain in the hunt, but time is running out.