NFC South Notebook: Falcons looking to continue hot streak against division

Dave Holcomb

The Atlanta Falcons are 1-7 against opponents outside the NFC South, including 0-3 versus the AFC, this season. But inside their own division, they are 2-0, knocking off the first and second place teams each of the last two weeks.

Atlanta is in the midst of playing five straight division games, which is something very rarely seen on an NFL schedule. Division contests essentially count twice in the standings because not only does a win move a team up, it drops the opposition down.

When the schedule came out in April, I made the point that as long as the Falcons didn't fall into a huge hole, the second half of the season would determine Atlanta's season because the final eight games included six NFC South matchups, five in a row coming off the bye week. The Falcons would be able to quickly make up or lose ground with that kind of slate.

Well, they do have the potential to make up tremendous ground, first, moving into third place with a victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12, but the Falcons did what I said they couldn't -- fall into a huge hole.

Even a 6-0 rampage through the NFC South would mean the Falcons need tremendous help to catch the Saints, who are five games ahead of Atlanta heading into Week 12.

While the Falcons and Buccaneers battle in Atlanta on Sunday, the Panthers and Saints will meet for the first time this season in New Orleans. The last thing Carolina wants to do is help Atlanta after the Falcons gave them that drubbing last week, but Atlanta would love to see Carolina hand New Orleans its third loss of the year.

Yes, the Falcons are chasing the Panthers too, but the gap between those two teams isn't as large.

The current leaders in the NFC wild card race are the Seahawks and Vikings, who both have eight wins. One more victory for either, and the Falcons won't be able to catch them because both own head-to-head tiebreakers with the Falcons.

Atlanta's best chance to keep its playoff hopes alive is in the division. In other words, go Panthers in Week 12.