Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Overreaction Monday: Falcons have a chance--but not really (UPDATED)

(UPDATED: 2 p.m.)

Welcome back to Overreaction Monday, where we have absolutely nothing else to do today. So let's grab the old Commodore 64 and ponder the astronomical odds of the Falcons making the playoffs.


Last week: Won at Jacksonville 23-17. Remaining games: Home against Carolina next week and New Orleans Jan. 3.

Overreaction narrative: "Playoffs? Hah! No, seriously . . ."

Realty check: Playoffs? Hah! No seriously. So, yeah, I'm saying there's a chance. Cue . . .

So here's the deal. The Falcons are 7-7. Their only chance of getting into the playoffs would be to finish in a three-way tie with Seattle and Minnesota for the two NFC wild card berths. The Hawks and Vikings both are 9-5. So the Falcons' astronomical chances begin with this: They have to beat Carolina and New Orleans, and they have to hope Seattle loses to St. Louis and at Arizona, and Minnesota loses to the New York Giants and at Green Bay. That would leave all three with the same overall (9-7) and conference (6-6) records.

So that's six things.

See only six things.

Wait, I'm not done yet.

Below are the tiebreakers to determine the wild card(s) when three or more clubs are involved.

(1) Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.

(2) Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)

(3) Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

(4) Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.

(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) Best net points in conference games.

(10) Best net points in all games.

(11)  Best net touchdowns in all games.

(12) Coin flip. (I've always wanted it to get down to a coin flip at some point because there would be mayhem and social media meltdowns, and I'm evil in that way.)

Seattle already has clinched a wild card spot Don't ask how. They just have.

(UPDATE: The rest of the blog has been updated/corrected, affirming the correct tiebreakers and manner in which they're decided.)

The fourth tiebreaker, common opponents, would not apply as the three teams don’t reach the minimum of four. Head-to-head counts in a two-way tiebreaker but not a three-way tiebreaker. Kinda, sorta.

The Falcons would need to win the sixth tiebreaker -- strength of victory -- over BOTH Seattle and Minnesota. Strength of victory is calculated by using opponents' record in those nine victories by each team. The reason the Falcons must beat both teams in that three-team tiebreaker is because they would lose two-team tiebreakers to Minnesota (head to head) and Seattle (common games). (I know. It's confusing.)

The strength of victory tiebreaker will change in the final two weeks, obviously. But as of today, this is where the three teams stand in strength of victory:

• Vikings' opponents: 50-74 (.403).

• Falcons' opponents: 38-60 (.388). (It obviously would increase with a win over current 14-0 Carolina.)

• Seahawks' opponents: 46-79 (.368).

Now, with all of that said, is any of this going to happen?

OF COURSE NOT! For starters, the Falcons have to beat a Carolina team that waxed them 38-0.

But I hope I've impressed you with my math skills.

Reality check No. 2: As I mentioned in my column following the Falcons' win over the Jaguars, finishing strong will say something as to what degree coach Dan Quinn still has the attention of players. The team's finish also could be a factor in offseason plans, not just on the roster but the front office and the coaching staff. I'll get into that more later this week.

Hawks guard Kyle Korver dribbles by Orlando's Victor Oladipo in the second half Sunday's game. (AP photo)


Last six games: Three straight losses to Oklahoma City (road), San Antonio and Miami, followed by three straight wins over Philadelphia, Boston (road) and Orlando (road).

Overreaction narrative: "This team just isn't the same. ... Wait, this team is the same!"

Reality check: Yeah, I'm confused too. The other day I wrote a column about the shooting struggles of Kyle Korver, quoting him extensively on the difficulty of spending most of his offseason rehabilitating from ankle and elbow surgeries. Then Korver hit six of eight three-point attempts in Sunday's 103-100 win at Orlando, including four of five in the fourth quarter -- and the game-winner. So let's wait a bit while before the dust starts to settle on this team before making any grand proclamations. The Hawks made a number of key decisions in the offseason that may or may not pan out, but it's too early to make that call.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.