NFL playoff picture: Falcons can lock up 1st-round bye with 49ers loss on Sunday night

Kevin C. Cox

If New England beats San Francisco on Sunday night, the Falcons will clinch a first-round bye.

After dismantling the New York Giants, 34-0, on Sunday afternoon, the Atlanta Falcons could see the New England Patriots help Atlanta lock up a first-round bye if the Patriots are able to beat the San Francisco 49ers in their meeting on Sunday night.

With their win over the Giants, the Falcons moved to 12-2 on the season, which is still the best record in the NFC. But with the Green Bay Packers winning Sunday afternoon as well, the Packers remain in the hunt for the NFC's top overall seed.

A 49ers loss, however, would be enough to ensure that the Falcons would claim one of the two top spots in the NFC come playoff time — a position that also ensures a first-round bye.

The Falcons will have to go another week without locking up home-field advantage and the top NFC seed throughout the playoffs, but can clinch the all-important first-round bye before even having to return to practice in preparation for Week 16.

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