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Atlanta Falcons are Mathematically Eliminated from the 2013 Playoff Picture

The Atlanta Falcons have managed to beat every other team in the NFL this season, in one area. Unfortunately for them -- and their fans -- their dubious distinction is that of being the first and only team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs during Week 12.

On November 21st, the New Orleans Saints sacked the playoff chances of the Atlanta Falcons.
On November 21st, the New Orleans Saints sacked the playoff chances of the Atlanta Falcons.
Scott Cunningham

It has been said that on Thursday, November 21st, the Atlanta Falcons were playing the equivalent of their Super Bowl. Even before game day arrived, everyone knew that the Falcons would not make the playoffs this year; but they might at least garner some satisfaction from spoiling the playoff picture for their rivals, the New Orleans Saints. What some may not have realized, however, was that getting beaten by the Saints for the second time this season would be the final nail in the coffin for any postseason hopes. With a current record of 2-9, Atlanta is now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

It has been a few weeks since there were any realistic expectations that the Falcons might make the postseason this year. However, had they managed to win at home against the Saints, it would still be mathematically possible. Of course, they would have had to win their remaining five games to finish 8-8, while several other teams would have had to lose most or all of their remaining games.

their ticket to the 2013 playoff bench was punched in Atlanta, by the New Orleans Saints

But losing to New Orleans this past week removed their last shred of hope. Although the second NFC wildcard spot is currently occupied by a team with only seven wins, the Arizona Cardinals (7-4) and the San Francisco 49ers (7-4) play each other in December. So no team with a losing record will be taking a wildcard slot in the NFC playoffs this year.

What about the rest of the NFL?

There are several teams which have been struggling this year. Is Atlanta truly alone at the bottom of the heap? For at least one more week, the answer is: yes.

With this week's win against the Detroit Lions (6-5), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) kept themselves in the race for the NFC's second wildcard slot. They also kept alive the chances of the Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1) winning the NFC North. With the winner of the NFC East being anybody's guess at the moment, even the Washington Redskins (3-7) are not far out of the hunt for their divisional playoff spot.

In the AFC, there are two teams which match Atlanta's 2-9 record: the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Houston Texans. However, neither are completely out of the playoff hunt. Either team could win out to overtake the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) for the AFC South division title. If the Colts were to lose their last five games, they would have a worse division record than either the Jaguars or the Texans at 7-9. Also, the No.6 seed is not out of reach for any team in the AFC. With six teams currently tied for the second wildcard position, at only five wins, the two worst teams in the conference are only three wins behind.

So while there are several teams in the league which are highly unlikely to make the playoffs, only the Atlanta Falcons are completely out of the race. And their ticket to the 2013 playoff bench was punched in Atlanta, by the New Orleans Saints.

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