Projecting Odds for Every Playoff Seed for the Atlanta Falcons
But it's not all doom and gloom for the Falcons, whose 8-1 record still has them atop the NFC.
Of course, the season is far from over. A lot can change between now and Week 17, with the Falcons potentially finishing anywhere from just barely making the playoffs to earning the No. 1 seed, or perhaps even missing the postseason altogether.
But what's most likely to happen?
Here's an early projection of the Falcons' chances of earning each of the six total NFC playoff seeds.
No. 5/No. 6 Seed: 4 Percent Each
Falling to a wildcard spot would leave Mike Smith furious.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It would take a collapse of epic proportions for the Falcons to fall to one of the wildcard spots.
Specifically, the Falcons would have to fall short of winning the division. With the Panthers all but eliminated from the playoff race, Atlanta's biggest challengers for the NFC South crown are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, both of whom have won three of their past four.
However, the teams currently sit at 5-4 and 4-5 on the season, respectively—a far cry to the Falcons' current 8-1 record.
That means even if Tampa Bay were to win all of their seven games remaining in the season, they'll still need the Falcons to drop at the very least three more games for a chance at the title.
And that combination just isn't very likely.
No. 4 Seed: 10 Percent
The Falcons falling to the No. 4 seed? Stephen Nicholas thinks that's crazy.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Nearly as unlikely is the possibility of Atlanta dropping to the NFC's No. 4 seed.
This seed is reserved for the NFC division winner with the lowest record, a spot currently held by the New York Giants at 6-4.
In other words, the Falcons would have to finish with a lower record than the Giants to enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
The Giants may be last year's league champions, but even they won't come out unscathed with a remaining schedule that includes two more divisional games and three dates with playoff contenders in the Packers, Ravens and the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Meanwhile, the Falcons' remaining opponents currently hold a collective 29-35 record.
The Giants might end up winning that matchup with the Falcons, but the chances of New York bypassing them in the overall wins column are slim to none.
No. 3 Seed: 20 Percent
Atlanta ending up with the No. 3 seed? That wouldn't be so bad. But Smith knows his Falcons can do better.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Seeing as we've already established the likelihood of the Falcons winning their own division and the unlikelihood of the Giants overtaking them in the conference, it's now time to turn our attention to the San Francisco 49ers.
At 6-2-1, the 49ers, currently locked in at the NFC's No. 3 seed, pose a realistic threat to finish ahead of the Falcons in the win column.
San Francisco has played some of the league's best football this season. Even with the potential loss of Alex Smith for an extended period of time, the 49ers' deadly combination of playing shut down defense (third-best in the league) and unleashing a ferocious running attack (first in the league) could be enough to carry them back into the playoffs.
As well, it's entirely possible the Falcons lose two, maybe three more games this season.
No. 2 Seed: 25 Percent
A first-round bye would leave Asante Samuel smiling...
Rob Carr/Getty Images
At this time, Chicago is locked in at the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a 7-2 record.
Like San Francisco, the Bears have earned high praise throughout the season for their stifling, non-stop scoring, top-ranked defense.
And like San Francisco, the Bears are heavily dependent on their running game (ninth-ranked), which has proven to be a lot more effective than their passing attack (third-worst in the league).
The problem is, both of these teams are set to face off next Monday night.
That, and the fact that Chicago lost its starting quarterback to a concussion last weekend is pretty concerning for a team whose backup is Jason Campbell.
If the Bears find a way to win Sunday and move to 8-2 they may have a good chance at eventually swapping seeds with the Falcons. But, even then, remaining games against the Vikings twice, Seahawks and Packers could easily keep that from happening.
No. 1 Seed: 35 Percent
...But a first-round bye plus homefield advantage throughout the playoffs would have Arthur Blank cheering.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
At 8-1 and atop the NFC, the Falcons are in complete control of their playoff destiny; they go undefeated the rest of the way, that precious home-field advantage and first-round bye is theirs for the taking.
However, it's not like they'll be in cruise control all the way to Week 17. Despite their remaining opponents' lowly .453 collective winning percentage, the Falcons still have four more divisional battles and a tone-setting game against the Giants left to play.
While winning out would make for a clear path to the No. 1 seed, the Falcons have room to lose another game or two so long as they stay ahead of the Bears and 49ers.