The Falcons might be the surprise of the NFL season. With all due respect to Brian Daboll and what he’s done with the Giants, Arthur Smith is arguably doing just as much with less. Somehow, the Falcons continue to win games despite having a roster severely deficient of talent. Most of the time, in a contest like we saw against the Panthers on Sunday, the Falcons would fold. Look no further than the season opener when the team collapsed in the fourth quarter at the hands of the Saints. But somehow, the shorthanded Falcons ended up victorious when they probably shouldn’t have and currently sit in first place in their divsion.
Atlanta has an actual chance to host a playoff game! If the Falcons win the division, they’ll host a postseason contest for the first time since 2017. Honestly, nobody thought the Falcons would be in this position. And to be fair, it has as much to do with the Buccaneers’ shortcomings as the Falcons’ achievements. Still, I’m not here to rain on the Dirty Birds parade. It might not last too long, so we’ll relish the moment.
The Falcons are 4-4 with playoff aspirations that are getting more realistic by the week. Despite having the least amount of money allocated to active rostered players with nearly $80 million in dead money, the Falcons remain competitive regardless of the situation, excluding the Bengals thrashing. Atlanta might not have the formula to win in a variety of ways, but Arthur Smith has this team believing in themselves and has proven to be a tough draw.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Falcons currently have a 45% chance of making the playoffs and a 38% chance of winning the division, compared to the Buccaneers’ 45% and 39% respective chances. Before the Week 8 win over Carolina, Atlanta had a 39% chance of making the postseason and a 33% chance of winning the division. When the Falcons sat at 2-2, their odds were even lower at a 30% chance of making the playoffs.
Current NFC playoff picture
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-0)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-2)
- New York Giants (6-2)
- San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
The NFC is putrid. The Eagles look like the only serious Super Bowl contender, and the Falcons are right in the middle of the playoff picture. Tom Brady is still one of the greatest players in football, and the Bucs have enough talent to make a run despite a less-than-ideal first half of the season.
The New York Times has an interesting widget that shows the Falcons postseason probability change in real time depending on the outcomes of the games left on the schedule. Despite the 49ers boasting the same record and holding the final Wild Card spot, the Falcons main focus should be to win the division, which means taking care of business in the division. The single most impactful game will be the season finale against the Buccaneers.
As it stands right now, the Falcons odds change by 40% depending on the outcome of that Week 18 contest; it could very easily decide the division. That would be quite an accomplishment for a rebuilding team with one of the least talented rosters in the league to make the playoffs.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire