USA TODAY Sports
If the playoffs began today, the Falcons' first opponent would be the Seahawks, Redskins or Vikings, but all three of those could change in Week 17.
With a decisive win on Saturday against the Detroit Lions, the Falcons did what they had to do to ensure that they'll be taking the first week of the playoffs off and playing all possible postseason games at home in the Georgia Dome. With everything wrapped up, there isn't much incentive for the Falcons to finish the regular season with a win on Sunday against the Buccaneers, and the team has the option to rest its starters if it likes.
While Week 17 doesn't mean much to the Falcons, in particular, the NFC playoff picture is very much in the air and the first opponent for the Falcons in the playoffs will likely need a win to ensure a spot. With the first seed in the conference, the Falcons could play the lowest divisional seed or one of the two Wild Cards in their first game of the playoffs.
Currently the Seahawks, Redskins and Vikings inhabit those three positions, but the latter two have yet to clinch their spots in the playoffs, and the Seahawks could still jump ahead of the 49ers in the seeding. That makes games involving the lower NFC playoff seeds very important for the immediate future of the Falcons.
Here's the full NFL schedule for Week 17, all times are Eastern:
Sunday, Sept. 30
- Eagles vs. Giants, 1 p.m., FOX
- Jets vs. Bills, 1 p.m., CBS
- Ravens vs. Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS
- Browns vs. Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS
- Texans vs. Colts, 1 p.m., CBS
- Jaguars vs. Titans, 1 p.m., CBS
- Bears vs. Lions, 1 p.m., FOX
- Panthers vs. Saints, 1 p.m., FOX
- Buccaneers vs. Falcons, 1 p.m., FOX
- Cardinals vs. 49ers, 4:25 p.m., FOX
- Packers vs. Vikings, 4:25 p.m., FOX
- Dolphins vs. Patriots, 4:25 p.m., CBS
- Raiders vs. Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS
- Chiefs vs. Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS
- Rams vs. Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., FOX
- Cowboys vs. Redskins, 8:20 p.m., NBC