Three clinching scenarios for Falcons

The Panthers win over the Redskins put the Falcons one step closer to clinching a playoff berth. It slightly lowered the bar for clinching a Wild Card bid, and opened a few new doors to clinching a spot this weekend.

If the Falcons win in Carolina on Saturday, they are almost guaranteed a playoff spot. In fact, FiveThirtyEight.com puts their playoff chances at greater than 99 percent with a win over the Panthers. But due to some complex tiebreaker scenarios, Atlanta can't claim they are in the Playoffs this weekend with a win alone.

We'll get into that in a minute. But here are the three scenarios that would guarantee the Falcons a Playoff bid:

1. Falcons win, Buccaneers lose: If Atlanta wins in Carolina, and Tampa Bay loses in New Orleans, the Falcons will be the NFC South champions, and guaranteed to host a playoff game. They will also still be in contention for the second seed and a first round bye in the NFC. Tampa Bay and New Orleans square off at 4:25 p.m. ET on Saturday.

2. Falcons win, Lions lose: If the Lions lose in Dallas on Monday night, that means that the second place team in the NFC Central will end the season with seven losses, and that 10 wins is good enough for an NFC Wild Card spot. A Falcons win over the Panthers would get Atlanta to 10 wins.

3. Falcons win, Packers lose: Similar to above, a Packers loss to the Vikings would mean that 10 wins would guarantee the Falcons at least a Wild Card spot. This is actually the first scenario that could play out this weekend. Both Atlanta and Green Bay play at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.

The Complicated Scenario: As we mentioned at the start of this article, a win in Carolina nearly guarantees the Falcons a Wild Card spot, at a minimum. However, there is one specific scenario that leaves 'strength of victories' between the Lions and Falcons as the determining factor for the NFC's last Wild Card spot. And it could leave Atlanta and Detroit waiting until every game is concluded to find out who is in. That scenario only goes into effect if:

  • Atlanta beats Carolina in Week 16
  • Detroit beats Dallas in Week 16
  • Tampa beats New Orleans in Week 16
  • Green Bay beats Minnesota in Week 16
  • Atlanta loses to New Orleans in Week 17
  • Detroit loses to Green Bay in Week 17
  • Tampa Bay beats Carolina in Week 17

Anything other than that exact sequence means that an Atlanta victory this weekend guarantees a playoff spot. If, however, that specific scenario does play out, it would come down to the fourth tiebreaker (strength of victory) between Atlanta and Detroit. The Falcons have some advantages there, but they may not be able to clinch it until the Week 17 games have concluded.

In Record NFC Division
xDallas 12-2 8-2 3-2
xSeattle 9-4-1 5-4-1 2-2-1
Atlanta 9-5 7-3 3-1
Detroit 9-5 7-3 3-2
New York 10-4 7-3 3-1
Green Bay 8-6 6-4 3-1
 
In the hunt Record NFC Division
Tampa Bay 8-6 6-4 3-1
Washington 7-6-1 5-4 3-2
x=Clinched a playoff spot

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