ATLANTA–In lieu of the Falcons climbing out of a 1-4 hole and getting back to the .500 mark, it's time for 11Alive Sports to address the plausible chances (or betting odds) of the franchise making the NFC playoffs ... or even claiming the NFC South crown.
(Spoiler alert: It would take a mini-miracle to win the division title at anything short of 11-5; and even that might be a stretch.)
IF THE NFC PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY ...
1. Rams (8-1 ... although the Saints would own the full-season tiebreaker)
2. Saints (7-1)
3. Bears (5-3)
4. Redskins (5-3 ... Chicago owns tiebreaker, due to better current intra-conference mark)
5. Panthers (6-2 ... Wild Card #1)
6. Vikings (5-3-1 ... Wild Card #2)
7. Falcons/Seahawks/Bears (4-4)
8. Packers (3-4-1)
LET'S DO THE (CRAZY) MATH
With New Orleans (7-1) and Carolina (6-2) performing extremely well at the seasonal midpoint, it's very unlikely an NFC South champion would be crowned with only nine or 10 victories.
So, how could Atlanta carry the division at 11-5?
Here's the laundry list of necessary occurrences:
STEP 1: The Falcons go 7-1 down the stretch, with the lone defeat coming outside the conference (@ Cleveland or vs. Baltimore).
STEP 2: The Panthers sweep the season series against the Saints (Weeks 15 and 17). In this hypothetical, the Falcons would have a 1-1 record versus New Orleans and 2-0 mark versus Carolina.
STEP 3: Citing the above rationale, the Falcons would need two additional losses from the Panthers. The most likely possibilities:
@ Pittsburgh (Week 10)
@ Detroit (Week 11)
vs. Seattle (Week 12)
STEP 4: The Saints are technically trailing the 8-1 Rams for conference supremacy, but Sunday's thrilling win at the Superdome profoundly changed things in this regard:
Citing this current pace, New Orleans would own the tiebreaker edge over Los Angeles on two fronts: Head-to-head ... and conference record.
STEP 5: Even if the Saints incur multiple defeats to the Panthers in December, the Falcons would still require at least one more random defeat.
Here are the best contenders:
@ Cincinnati (Week 10)
vs. Philadelphia (Week 11)
@ Cowboys (Week 13)
vs. Pittsburgh (Week 16)
THE BETTING RAINBOW
Here are VegasInsider.com's current odds for the NFC South's eventual champion:
Saints ... 1-3
Panthers ... 5-2
Falcons ... 16-1
Buccaneers ... 50-1
Here are VegasInsider's current odds for claiming the NFC championship:
Rams ... 7-4
Saints ... 7-2
Vikings ... 8-1
Eagles ... 12-1
Panthers ... 14-1
Bears ... 14-1
Redskins ... 14-1
Packers ... 20-1
Seahawks ... 20-1
Falcons ... 33-1
Cowboys ... 33-1
Lions ... 50-1
Buccaneers ... 150-1
Cardinals ... 250-1
Giants ... 250-1
And last but not least, the Super Bowl/Lombardi Trophy odds (NFC South only):
Saints ... 11-2
Panthers ... 20-1
Falcons ... 50-1
Buccaneers ... 500-1
According to PlayoffStatus.com, Atlanta has the following likelihood of five different stages of postseason achievement:
Chance of reaching the NFC playoffs: 29 percent
Chance of advancing to Divisional Playoff weekend: 14 percent
Chance of of advancing to Championship Sunday: 5 percent
Chance of claiming the NFC title: 2 percent
Chance of winning the Super Bowl: 1 percent
PRESEASON WIN TOTALS
Here are some August-based victory projections from the Vegas experts:
The Good (in terms of 'Over')
Patriots – 11.5
Vikings – 9.5
Saints – 9.5
Panthers – 9
Chiefs – 9
Ravens – 8.5
Texans – 8.5
Chargers – 8.5
The Meh (in terms of 'Probably Not')
Eagles – 10.5
Steelers – 10.5
Packers – 10
Vikings – 9.5
Falcons – 9
Cowboys – 9
The Ugly (in terms of 'Not Even Close')
Bears – 6.5
Raiders – 8
Niners – 9
SCHEDULING FUN FACTS
**Atlanta, Arizona, Carolina and Washington are the only NFC teams with five road games from Weeks 10-17.
**The Saints' final seven opponents (Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys, Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers twice) have a combined record of 21-17-1, or 53.8 percent.
Heading into this season, the same group had a cumulative winning rate of 64 percent.
**League-wise, only New Orleans has a run of three consecutive road outings during the final stretch of Weeks 10-17 (@Bucs, @ Cowboys, @Panthers for Weeks 13-15).
**The Seahawks (vs. SF, vs. MIN, vs. KC, vs. ARI) and Titans (vs. NYG, vs. JAX, vs. WSH, vs. IND) are the only clubs with four home games during the month of December.
**Unlike last year, each NFL franchise will garner at least one nationally televised appearance this season.
The last team to grace the national airwaves? The Panthers ... with this week's trip to Pittsburgh.