After destroying a pathetic Raiders team, the Falcons are 5-3 and legitimately in the playoff race.
That's the good news, but the bad news is that the schedule over the final eight games of the season is going to get tougher. In the first half of the season, Atlanta has wins over the Lions, Chiefs and Raiders--three of the worst teams in the league. Over the final half of the season, Atlanta has only two games against teams that are under .500 right now.
So if the Falcons are going to figure out a way to make the playoffs, they will earn it. But it's actually a possibility because Atlanta has a lot games against teams sitting right around .500. To be safe, Atlanta probably needs to go 5-3 over the next eight as well, although 4-4 could get them in in a year where parity rules everything.
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A win over the Rams (2-6) in the season finale looks likely, and the Falcons actually have a good chance to be favored against the underachieving Chargers (3-5). But to get to the playoffs, Atlanta will have to figure out a way to snag wins against the Saints (4-4), Broncos (4-4) and Vikings (4-4). There's not one of those teams that should blow the Falcons out, and Mike Smith has gotten his team to show up most every week, so it is possible.
It's too early to think that the Falcons are likely to make it to the playoffs, but it's amazing enough to think that they have a legitimate chance.