December 18, 2017 - The Atlanta Falcons notched a crucial win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night to improve to 9-5 on the season and keep their playoff hopes alive. With two games remaining, they need just one win over either Carolina or New Orleans in order to secure a playoff berth as at least the 6th seed in the NFC.

With the loss, the Bucs drop to 4-10. Per, quarterback Jameis Winston believes that he has not improved this season as an improvement "requires winning more games than the previous year" and that he needs to "eliminate the stupid mistakes" that have plagued his third year.

Playoff Scenarios

If the Falcons win either of their next two games, they will finish 10-6 at worst, with a tiebreaker advantage over all three other current Wild Card contenders (Cowboys, Lions, and Seahawks) who all currently stand at 8-6. With two straight losses, they would need help from other team's losses to clinch a playoff berth as two wins by any of those squads would put them above the Falcons.

If they did lose both though, only one win by any of those teams would not be enough to leapfrog Atlanta for the 6th seed due to the head-to-head advantage they maintain. On Dec. 24, either the Cowboys or Seahawks will be eliminated from playoff contention as they play each other at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Detroit travels to Cincinnati to the face the Bengals, who at 5-9, have little to play for other than pride and the chance to eliminate the Lions from playoff contention.

Complicated NFL Wild Card rules

Assuming the Falcons lose to the New Orleans Saints and the Lions win, there would be three teams still vying for playoff positions at 9-6 heading into week 17.

If the Falcons lost their final game to drop to 9-7, and both the Cowboys and Lions won, the situation would be extremely complicated.

They would both be 10-6 and have not played each other this year so there is no head-to-head result of which the winner would go through as the 6th seed. The Cowboys are currently 4-1 in division play, having lost only to the Eagles.

The Lions are also 4-1, with their only defeat coming to the Vikings. They both play division games in week 17 which, with wins, would have them both finish at 5-1 in the division which would be another tie. The tiebreaker for the Wild Card is best conference record, but both teams would be 8-4 at that point.

They would then move to the next tiebreaker in the rulebook, which is "the best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four." This means that if Detroit and Dallas play at least four teams in common, the team with the highest winning percentage in those games would advance.

They will have played exactly four common teams by the end of the season in the Cardinals, Giants, Falcons, and Packers.

The Cowboys would be 3-2 in this scenario by beating the Giants twice and the Cardinals once, while losing to Atlanta and Green Bay. The Lions would be 4-1, with two wins over Green Bay, a win over Arizona, and a win over New York, while losing just the once to Atlanta. The Detroit Lions would, therefore, go through as the 6th seed.