Falcons Playoff Scenario: An obnoxiously early look at January

Al Bello

Sure, this is a stupid idea, but it's never too early to dread the Playoffs when you support the Atlanta Falcons.

It's way too early to be doing this. Stupidly, embarrassingly too early to be doing this. We'd offer up that our curiosity is piqued only because the Atlanta Falcons - the Atlanta Falcons - are the NFL's sole unbeaten team at 6-0, but the franchise was the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and gone bust just two years ago.

But hey, NFL.com did it, so don't blame us.

Still, there's really no excuse to look at projected Playoff picture two weeks before Halloween. Unless you're willing to rationalize that the Dimitroff/Smith era Falcons have now come to resemble the Braves of the 1990s in that nothing matters except removing the postseason albatross,so why not look ahead and worry?

(By the way, don't even bother with the AFC: If you think the NFC picture is tenuous, after Houston and Baltimore there are seven 3-3 teams vying for four spots.)

As of Week... 7.... the Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, followed by the 4-1 Bears as the No. 2, with the Wildcard Round games featuring No. 3 Arizona (wut?) vs. No. 6 Seattle and No. 4 New York vs. No. 5 Minnesota. Aside from the fact that math is trying to tell us the Cardinals are the third best team in anything other than a division, note that Super Bowl favorites Green Bay and San Francisco aren't even in the Playoffs.

Bad thing about this scenario: It means the New York Giants, last year's Bird killers and arguably the NFC's most dangerous team, could head to Atlanta in the Divisional Round if there's an upset in the 3/6 game (there usually is, FYI).

Another bad thing: Three of the four potential Divisional Round opponents - the Giants, Vikings and Seahawks - are all Top 10 rushing offenses, and the Atlanta Falcons are putrid at stopping the run. Although if the Raiders taught us anything last week, it's that the Falcon defense is so porous that even bad teams will have success against them, so uh, whatever.

But hey, this is good: The 49ers aren't in the playoffs, and the 49ers match up best against the Falcons, if "best" means another one-and-done blowout loss for Atlanta in January. San Francisco is No. 1 in the league in rushing offense, total defense and No. 2 in passing defense, and are fourth in the NFC in time of possession. Add all that up, and unlike say, the Raiders, you don't get to throw three INTs in the first half and open a barn door against a mediocre back but still win by a field goal.

Team to watch this week: The Seahawks, who week-to-week play and look like a bag of cheap fireworks. Seattle could keep San Francisco at bay with a big win Thursday night and that's good since that's the team we're most terrified of. This week.

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