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NFC Playoff Picture: How Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay affects the Seahawks’ playoff hopes

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

What I’m about to recite may sound familiar to you:

The Atlanta Falcons played a road game on Monday Night Football and didn’t trail for the entire game. They repeatedly converted 3rd downs on a banged up and struggling defense, pass rush nowhere to be found. Because it’s the Falcons, they have to try and squander a double-digit lead, and they found themselves up by 3 late in the final quarter. One first down ends the game, but instead Ryan gets sacked on 3rd down, giving the other team a chance to either tie or win it outright.

The other team gets the ball back and marches into long field goal range. Atlanta somehow doesn’t get penalized for delay of game by pinning players down after the play is over, and there isn’t enough time to make the kick shorter. The opposing team’s kicker misses from 50+, and Atlanta hangs on for the W.

It happened against the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 34-31, then repeated itself against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this time 24-21.

Here are the updated NFC playoff standings:

#1 - Philadelphia Eagles (12-2)
#2 - Minnesota Vikings (11-3)
#3 - Los Angeles Rams (10-4)
#4 - New Orleans Saints (10-4)

#5 - Carolina Panthers (10-4)
#6 - Atlanta Falcons (9-5)


#7 - Detroit Lions (8-6)
#8 - Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
#9 - Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

You may notice I left off the Green Bay Packers, well that’s because they’ve been eliminated from postseason contention. There will be no Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs.

By default, the Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys is an elimination game. There is no way around it. Loser has zero chance of making the playoffs.

Seattle’s best chance to make the postseason is to win out (and they have no choice but to do so), and the Falcons must lose to both the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, plus the Detroit Lions need to lose (or tie) one of their two games against the Cincinnati Bengals or Green Bay Packers. With Green Bay done for the year, maybe Mike McCarthy benches Aaron Rodgers and lets actual healthy QB Brett Hundley end the season. In which case, the Atlanta win is just that much worse for the Seahawks.

The only way Seattle can win the NFC West is for the Rams to lose to the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, while the Seahawks win against the Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals.

Seattle makes the playoffs if they finish 10-6 AND...

  • The Los Angeles Rams finish 10-6 (Seattle wins tiebreaker on division record); OR
  • The Lions finish no better than 9-6-1; AND
  • The Atlanta Falcons finish no better than 9-6-1; OR
  • The New Orleans Saints finish 10-6 (Seattle wins tiebreaker on conference record); OR
  • The Carolina Panthers finish 10-6 (Seattle wins tiebreaker on conference record); OR
  • The Panthers, Lions, and Saints all finish 10-6 with the Seahawks, in which case Detroit is the #5 seed, Seattle is #6, while the Panthers and Saints would be OUT.

To recap, these are the remaining games for the teams in question:

Detroit: at Cincinnati, vs. Green Bay
Atlanta: at New Orleans, vs. Carolina
New Orleans: vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay
Carolina: vs. Tampa Bay, at Atlanta
LA Rams: at Tennessee, vs. San Francisco
Seattle: at Dallas, vs. Arizona

It’s not over, but it’s gonna take a miracle.