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NFL Playoff Scenarios 2011: Don't Look Now Atlanta, But Here Come Those Philadelphia Eagles

While you're busy worrying about the New Orleans Saints, ask yourself: Didn't it feel like the Atlanta Falcons vanquished the ghost of Michael Vick a little too easily?

It's been months since the Falcons knocked out the albatross of the franchise (little known law of the supernatural: ghosts can be concussed) and outlasted an Andy Reid coached Eagles team for only the second time in ten meetings. Since then, Philly's discovered the Mike Vick "Yang" of injuries and inconsistency that never seems to make as many headlines as the playmaking "Ying," and despite a slew of showy off season moves and ill-advised branding strategies, the preseason contender has gone totally bust. Almost.

The Eagles aren't officially dead yet. They surprised the New York Jets at home on Sunday, and at 6-8 and with Vick back from another injury, they now have a shot at winning the NFC East at 8-8 - and likely hosting the Wild Card Falcons in the Playoffs.

Philly needs to win out (at Dallas Saturday, vs. Washington 1/1) have the Jets beat the Giants this weekend and the Giants beat the Cowboys on January 1 and they're in - and almost assuredly hosting the No. 5 seed (your Atlanta Falcons). That's a scenario in which the Eagles have never lost: Twice with Vick the Falcons fell to a Reid coached Eagles team in the Playoffs (2002 Divisional Round, 2004 NFC Championship). The Falcons are 0-6 playing at Philly since their last win in 1988.

Of the many potential opening round opponents for Atlanta - San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, Dallas and these Eagles, Philadelphia has the second worst rushing defense at 113.6 yards allowed per game (only the Giants are worse, at 127.6), likely the most important single team statistic for a Falcons offense dedicated to establishing the running game on the road.

They've been embarrassingly inconsistent on offense and shallow on defense. But honestly, with a healthy Vick, in Philly, with a coach that's absolutely owned the Falcons: Doesn't a visit with the failed "Dream Team" feel like the absolute worst case scenario for Atlanta?

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