CHARLOTTE — The 3-6 Atlanta Falcons, who are tied for the second-worst record in the NFC and are sixth from the bottom in the NFL, have a chance to be in first place by the time this day is over.
Yes, in the NFC South, land of opportunity, the Falcons (3-6) are one game behind division leader New Orleans (4-5) and a half-game back of Carolina (3-6-1). That means the winner of today’s Falcons-Panthers game can take over first place in the NFL’s worst division if the Saints lose their home game against Cincinnati.
Regardless, there’s nothing to indicate that any of those three teams are about to go on a tear, so the division race, and therefore a playoff berth, may go down to the regular season’s final week.
Two of the Falcons’ three wins have come over Tampa Bay. Actually, since Week 3 of last season, the Falcons are 3-1 against the Buccaneers and 3-20 against other opponents. The other three wins have come over New Orleans (2014), Washington (2013) and Buffalo (2013).
So about today: While the Falcons reaffirmed their superiority over the Bucs last week and gained some measure of confidence, the Panthers are a mess. They were pounded by Philadelphia 45-21 Monday night and have lost four straight and six of eight (1-6-1) since a 2-0 start.
The team is allowing an average of 28.1 points per game (29th in the NFL, five spots behind the Falcons at 26.1) and there are increasing questions about Cam Newton’s future with the franchise (he has an option year left).
There obviously are questions about the future of the Falcons, as well — players, coaches and front office members. But as long as they’re in the division race, all major decisions are on hold.
That’s it for now. This is your live blog and I’ll be commenting during the game. The cyber floor is yours.
•A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Three short takes on Georgia’s win and Gurley — MyAJC: Dogs have a statement win, now hope for best with Gurley — MyAJC: As hoops open, Tech looks far more ready than Georgia — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets cross bridge, Falcons back to normal — MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now) — AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee? — MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him) — AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis — MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs — AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay — MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs — MyAJC: Amid Atlanta misery, can Hawks really be shining light? — AJC: Election Day: Vote to keep or fire coaches (polls) — MyAJC: Georgia blows it all with inexcusable performance — AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s stunning loss to Florida — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators — AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley — MyAJC: Mark Richt deserves credit for holding Georgia together — AJC: NCAA mum but Muschamp expects Gurley to play vs. Florida — AJC: Will Arthur Blank make move with Mike Smith (and reader poll)?