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NFC South - Week 9 Standings

Note: This article was written on November 4th prior to the Week 9 games for New Orleans & Carolina.

Barring catastrophic injury to Matt Ryan or Julio Jones, we can award the NFC South to the Atlanta Falcons.

Usually, the first Sunday in November would be quick to award a Division title. However, a basic analysis of the season to-date leads to only that conclusion.

Just evaluating Atlanta's position

  • Enjoy at least a 3 game lead on each of the other three teams in their division
  • Have already at a minimum split against each of their division opponents
  • Are also the only team in their division who has not yet had their bye

The fact that Atlanta has not had its bye is a key point. In their current position, it represents an additional win that the Falcons already have banked. On November 13th when they Falcons take their bye, that date will be a must-win for each of their division opponents just to keep pace.

Without the two well-publicized pass-interference non-calls against both Seattle & San Diego, the Falcons could be 8-1 at the midpoint of the season which has seen no defense capable of really stopping their Offense. Special Teams have been a consistent performer and their Defense (heavily dependent upon Rookie contributors) is improving week-to-week.

Reviewing Atlanta's schedule, 4 of their remaining games are at home and only their game against the Rams will be a long road trip. The Falcons have the fewest division games remaining (against Panthers & Saints in Weeks 15 & 16). Of Atlanta's remaining 7 games, only 2 (Eagles & Chiefs) have winning records. If the Falcons earn a split in those two games, it is difficult to see a path does not lead them to a playoff spot.

Viewing the daunting task in front of Atlanta's division opponents:

The Saints are currently in 2nd place. They travel to SF this weekend.

Before they celebrate too greatly, their schedule in the 2nd half of the season is a minefield of challenges. They have the greatest number of division games left (4) and are tied with Panthers with the greatest number of road games remaining (5). After 49ers, most of their non-division opponents are competitive in playoff races of their own.

With their final 4 games including 3 on the road & 3 against the division, the Saints (currently 3-4) have a tall order to finish .500. They will have to work hard to just finish 2nd in the division and are more likely to miss the playoffs yet again.

Tampa Bay is stymied for reasoning in reverse of Atlanta. They've had their bye which means their 3-5 record includes an additional loss compared with either Atlanta or New Orleans.

The positive for Tampa Bay is their current 2-1 record in the division (including their Week 1 victory over Atlanta). The bad news is their 0-4 home record. Teams with post-season aspirations win their home games and hold serve on the road.

It will be a struggle for the Buccaneers to get to a .500 record much less make up their current 3 game deficit in their final 8.

Carolina is in a world of hurt. At 2-5, they are in last place in the division after having already had their bye. They still have 3 division games remaining and the rest of their schedule lines them up against teams that are competitive in their divisions. Of their remaining 9 games, 5 are on the road. In two back-to-back road games, they will face the Raiders and Seahawks who currently both lead their divisions.

Barring a monumental turnaround, Carolina has shown no capability of going on an 8-1 run. That change would be required for them to get to ten-wins which is historically a measure for getting into the playoffs. In the midst of that near perfect run, every division game for them is a must win.

In short, for fans of Atlanta's division opponents, make your plans for basketball season. It's not going to happen.

Update after Week 9: New Orleans (now 4-4) took sole possession of 2nd place after their victory over 49ers. Carolina moved into a tie with Tampa Bay at 3-5. Starting Week 10, Atlanta's division foes are playing playoff elimination games for the rest of the season.