The Atlanta Falcons will be watching this weekend's Wild Card games with great interest. By Sunday night, the Falcons will know who they will face in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Falcons would tell you they do not care who they play.
But which of teams give the Falcons their best chance to break their 0-3 playoff streak? Which team stands the greatest chance of an early exit?
This game has several interesting story-lines, but little help for film room study. The Packers and Vikings are divisional opponents, so they know each other all too well. This is compounded by the fact that the two teams will be facing each other for the third time and the second time in two weeks. Both teams will approach this game differently than any other match-up.
From the Falcons perspective, the game itself is an ideal set up. No matter who wins, both teams might come out limping. The NFC North is a physical division, and the animosity will be multiplied by the playoffs.
If Green Bay wins, the Falcons will play the winner of Sunday's NFC Wild Card game. If Minnesota wins, then the Falcons can use Sunday to start trying to find a way to slow down Adrian Peterson.
This battle of rookie quarterbacks might be fun to watch, but might be meaningless if the Vikings upset the Packers for the second week in a row.
Either way, this game sets up well for the Falcons. If Robert Griffin III is still gimpy, then facing the stout Seahawks defense will be tough task. Being able to see how the Seahawks handle the spotlight could be useful scouting if they end up travelling to the Georgia Dome.
Best Case Scenario
For the Falcons, a Vikings win would be the best way to start the weekend. Granted, Peterson would be a nightmare for the Falcons inconsistent run defense. Other factors would outweigh the threat. The Vikings defense ranks 31st in the league against the pass. The Falcons can easily run the no-huddle in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.
With their first opponent decided, the Falcons could hope for the Seahawks to triumph over the Redskins. This would send the Seahawks off to face the San Francisco 49ers. Much like the Vikings-Packers game, the winner of a Seahawks-49ers tilt might have a few aches and pains heading into the NFC Championship.
Worst Case Scenario
The toughest road for the Falcons to travel would also include a Seahawks win. If the Packers and Seahawks both win, the Falcons might see a first round exit. The Seahawks defense is Top 10 in the league in rushing, passing, and points allowed. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson can run and throw. The Falcons have struggled with multi-dimensional quarterbacks in the past.
If the Falcons do survive, the winner of the 49ers-Packers will be well prepared when they come to the Georgia Dome. Both offenses can put up points, and both defenses can be well disguised. The winner of the match-up would present a host of problems for the Falcons in all phases of the game.
Either way, the Falcons' road to the Super Bowl would be a very rocky one indeed.