Falcons can still win the NFC South

Could Mike Smith save his job with an unlikely trip to the playoffs as the NFC South champions?

The NFC South is pretty pathetic, isn’t it?

It’s tough to admin, but the facts are strong. Atlanta’s division is the worst in football. The New Orleans Saints lead the division with a sub-.500 record of 4-5.

Monday night the Carolina Panthers were blown out in Philadelphia 45-21 by the Eagles. It really wasn’t that close, as the Eagles led 38-7 entering the final quarter.

Now the Falcons play Carolina for the first time this season on Sunday in Charlotte. If the Falcons win and the Saints lose to the Bengals at home in New Orleans, Atlanta will be tied for first place.

And surprisingly, the Falcons do have a schedule that could produce more wins. They have to play better than they did Sunday in Tampa Bay, but if the Falcons could get hot they could be looking more at a playoff berth compared to preparing for the NFL Draft in May.

On Sunday, November 23 Cleveland will visit the Georgia Dome as the Falcons return home for the first time since October 12. The Browns are a much improved team this season after beating the Bengals last Thursday. Cleveland is in sole possession of first place in November for the first time since 1994.

Arizona will be a different looking team November 30 when the Cardinals come to Atlanta. Carson Palmer tore his ACL Sunday and is out for the season. Drew Stanton is expected to take over. The Cardinals are 8-1 and lead the tough NFC West, but how will they do without their starting quarterback?

The Falcons will have an extra day to prepare for the always-tough road game in Green Bay on Decemebr 8. The Packers proved Sunday night in the blowout win over Chicago they are a team to think about in the NFC.

When Pittsburgh comes to the Georgia Dome on December 14, the Steelers are certain to have a ton of fans on hand. The Steelers had a three-game win streak snapped Sunday. They are 6-4 on the season.

New Orleans will be the opponent on December 21 as the Falcons travel south. If the trend continues, that game could be for the NFC South title. And Carolina will then end the regular season for the second year in a row at the Georgia Dome on December 28.

The Falcons are 3-0 so far against the NFC South, with the opening-week win over New Orleans and then two wins over the hapless Bucs. If they can win their remaining three games against the division teams and then one or two more of the other four, the Falcons will actually have a legit shot at the postseason.

Welcome to the NFC South.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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