Falcons playoff hopes hinge on Christmas Eve tilt against Ravens

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The winner of the NFC South is going to host a playoff game. Regardless if you agree with it, the worst division in football could send a sub-.500 team to the postseason. Most people’s money would be on the Buccaneers to make it out, but the Panthers actually hold tiebreakers over every other team in the division. And the Falcons could officially be eliminated from playoff contention if they fall to the Ravens on Christmas Eve.

Mark Schofield at SB Nation looked at the postseason landscape, and the Falcons’ hopes of playing meaningful games in January hinges on Saturday’s outcome.

Atlanta Falcons

Similar to the Saints, the only way for the Atlanta Falcons to make it to the playoffs is if they win the division. But with a loss to the Ravens on Saturday, they would be on the brink of elimination. A loss to the Ravens, plus a Tampa Bay win, eliminates the Falcons. In addition, a loss to the Ravens, coupled with a Buccaneers tie, and a Carolina Panthers win over the Detroit Lions, and the Falcons are out. A Falcons loss, coupled with a Buccaneers tie, a Panthers tie, and a Saints win, eliminates Atlanta. Finally, a Falcons loss, along with wins from the Panthers and Saints, eliminates Atlanta.

If the Falcons win, which is more possible than usual with Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley dealing with injuries, the club staves off elimination. However, if Atlanta loses, there are several scenarios that put an end to the team’s playoff hopes. If Tampa Bay wins over Arizona, which feels incredibly likely without Colt McCoy and Kyler Murray, Atlanta is done.

Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, the Falcons will be playing for 2023. With rookies Desmond Ridder and Troy Andersen officially supplanting veterans as starters, the roster is almost in try-out mode for next season. The front office will be quite active in free agency due to a large amount of salary cap space the organization will have next offseason, which means nobody’s job is safe.

Ridder and Andersen aren’t the only ones, though. There are plenty of players, like Kaleb McGary and Olamide Zaccheaus, who are competing for a more lucrative contract next season, with or without the Falcons. Atlanta will have a tall task to go into a frigid Baltimore and upset John Harbaugh’s team, which is ultra-talented despite some inconsistent play this season.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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