Coming into Week 12, the Atlanta Falcons looked to be well on their way to winning the NFC South, but there was a significant division stretch that the Falcons had to play first. In a three week period they would face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers. The Bucs and Saints, at the time, posed a serious threat to the Falcons desire to win the division, and if the Falcons didn’t win at least one of those games, things could have started getting away from Atlanta quickly.
Obviously, things worked out differently. In week 12, the Falcons defeated the Bucs, even if it was by the skin of their teeth. Coming off that victory, the Falcons had a quick turnaround and played their most bitter division rival on a national stage on a Thursday Night Football matchup. The offense may not have been spectacular, but once more the Falcons emerged victorious, and improved their overall record to 11-1.
That’s the best record in the NFL, and is by far the best record in the NFC. It’s also so much better than the rest of the NFC South, the Falcons could clinch by Sunday evening.
With the Falcons win over New Orleans Thursday night, the Saints dropped to 5-7. They’re certainly out of the division race, and all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They can’t truly affect the outcome of the division race.
The only team that stands a chance (and it’s only a vague possibility) is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were on a 4-game winning streak until the Falcons ended that last week, dropping them to 6-5. Now, they are in a do-or-die situation for the division. If Tampa loses or ties today, they will be mathematically eliminated from the NFC South division race. To make matters worse, the Bucs are in must-win mode against the red hot Denver Broncos in Denver. That’s going to be a tall order.
Now, the Falcons don’t absolutely require help from Tampa to win the division. All they need is to win at least one of their final four remaining games this season. I would say that is possible, if not probable.
Falcons fans, we can all take heart in another thing. Don’t think that the Falcons are just going to mail in the rest of the 2012 season; there is still a lot to play for. The Falcons have to at least try to maintain their stranglehold on the #1 seed for the NFC playoff picture. Rest assured, they won’t rest their starters; they will play competitive, inspired football until the very end. Your fantasy football team will continue to be productive because of the Atlanta Falcons.