FLOWERY BRANCH – With the best record in the NFC at 11-2, the Falcons' playoff fate is rather simple. If they win their remaining three games, they'll earn the NFC South title and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We don't concern ourselves with what other teams are doing," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We try to concern ourselves with what we are doing."
The Falcons, who are one game ahead of NFC South rival New Orleans, close the regular season with games at Seattle (6-7), New Orleans (10-3) and Carolina (1-12).
The Saints finish with games at Baltimore (8-4), at Atlanta (11-2) and Tampa Bay (8-5).
Due to a victory over Cleveland on Oct. 10, the Falcons could actually beat Seattle and Carolina, lose to New Orleans and still win the NFC South and the home-field advantage based on the NFL playoff tie-breaker system.
Should the Saints win out and the Falcons go 2-1 with a loss to New Orleans, both teams would finish 13-3 overall, 5-1 in the NFC South. The division title would be decided by the third tie-breaker, since the Saints and Falcons would be 1-1 in head-to-head games with identical division records.
The third tiebreaker is best-won-lost-tied percentage in common games: the Falcons would have a 7-1 record and New Orleans 6-2.
Their common non-division opponents are San Francisco, Arizona, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Saints were beaten by Arizona 30-20 on Oct. 10 and by Cleveland 30-17 on Oct. 24. The only common opponent the Falcons lost to was Pittsburgh, 15-9 in overtime, on Sept. 12.
NFL PLAYOFF TIEBREAKER RULES -- Two Clubs
1.Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
2.Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
3.Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
4.Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
5.Strength of victory.
6.Strength of schedule.
7.Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
8.Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
9. Most net points in common games.
10. Most net points in all games.
11. Most net touchdowns in all games.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com