It is not often that your NFL team has itself in a position going into week 16 to wrap up home field advantage for the Conference playoffs. I am trying to soak up this season as the Falcons are sitting at 12-2 right now and seem destined for even bigger things. As I wrote 2 years ago, you never know what a given NFL season will produce, so do your best to take advantage of seasons where the breaks seem to go your way.
Here is where we sit right now: The Falcons can clinch the #1 seed, which comes with a 1st round bye and 2 possible playoff games at the GA Dome, by winning either of their 2 final regular season games against NO and Carolina.
Assuming the Falcons get one of these wins, that would make them the #1 seed and Philadelphia looks like the most likely #2 seed after the Miracle in the Meadowlands Part Deux.
Chicago is 10-4 like the Eagles, but have to play the Jets and at Green Bay the last 2 weeks while Philly is at home with Minnesota and Dallas. I think Philly ends up 12-4 and gets the #2 seed, while the Bears go 10-6/11-5 and are the #3.
I also think the SF/STL winner this week will win the West and earn the #4 seed, which will be a home game against the best Wild Card team, probably New Orleans.
The last playoff spot in the NFC will come down to the Giants and Packers as the Bucs appear to be fading. They happen to play each other this week, and the winner will have the inside track at that final spot.
So, assuming the West winner doesn't pull a huge upset, the Falcons will have to beat two of the following teams in consecutive weeks at home to get to the Super Bowl:
No easy task, but I'll take my chances against any of these teams in the GA Dome. It would be sweet to get some revenge on Philly from 2004 and have a Vick/Ryan showdown, but that team is the scariest of the group. With NO looking like a solid #5, if Chicago holds serve at home against NYG/GB, a 3rd meeting vs NO could take place in mid-January.
How did the Birds get to this point? Well, they have had some breaks (SF, GB, TB, NO, and others), but they also made plays in those games to win them. Ryan, Turner, Gonzalez, and White are all Pro-Bowlers on offense and Lofton, Moore, and Grimes have played at a very high level on defense.
Grimes has had a particularly incredible season. He currently leads the NFL in pass deflections with 27, is 6th in INT's with 5 (tied w/Moore), and is 25th in tackles by corners with 73. He has made huge plays, taken away good receivers, and established himself as a top-tier corner in the league.
The Defensive Player of the Year usually goes to someone with huge numbers in sacks, INT's, etc, but even receiving some votes would go a long way towards getting Grimes the national attention he deserves.
A Super Bowl MVP would do that too though...