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NFL Schedule, Week 10: Five Games That Affect The Atlanta Falcons Playoff Run

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1: A Panthers win would be nice, as the Bucs are only a game behind Atlanta in the NFC South race. If the Bucs win, they'll move to 2-2 in the division, meaning that if they can force a split with the Falcons later in the year, the Birds second game with the New Orleans Saints will be even more crucial. Atlanta's currently 2-0 in the South.

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Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, 1: The only team ranked ahead of the Falcons in the NFC gets a virtual freebie, with the flailing, Tony Romo-less Cowboys in town. If we go ahead and mark this as a W, tomorrow night's game against the Baltimore Ravens is even more critical.

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Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 1: As appalling as this might sound, considering how awful they are, the Bears are only a game behind the Falcons. Hopefully this will correct itself over time, but if Atlanta fails to win the South, here's a team they'll have to contend with for a wild card spot. The Vikings aren't out of it yet either.

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Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 4:15: Somebody's gotta win the NFC West and thus earn home field in the first round of the playoffs. Winning the South will be critical to avoid a repeat of 2008, when a young Falcons team flew across country to play an inferior team and lost.

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Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins, Monday night: If the Falcons lose to the Ravens, an Eagles win would move them ahead of Atlanta in the standings, but not in the playoff race, because life isn't fair. If the playoffs started next week it wouldn't matter, as a wild card can't get a first round bye anyway.

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.