Atlanta Falcons: NFC Power Rankings, Week 16

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Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA;Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Nate Stupar (54) celebrates after a stop against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth quarter at EverBank Field. The Atlanta Falcons won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

50. . . Previous: . Detroit Lions. 12. team

Since the win at Lambeau Field on November 15th, the Detroit Lions have gone 4-2 and have played respectable football. The problem is that they started 2015 out 1-7 and it is nearly impossible to overcome that big of a deficit.

Detroit could easily win their last two games (49ers, @Bears) and finish at an all things considered respectable 7-9. To think that this Lions team could finish anywhere near .500 after their awful start is impressive. That still doesn’t change that Jim Caldwell is the worst clock management coach in the NFC, calling timeouts when he doesn’t have one.

51. . . Previous: . St. Louis Rams. 11. team

The St. Louis Rams have won their last two games as their rookie running back and probable NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley (Go Dawgs!) has breached 1,000 yards on the ground. St. Louis’ quarterback situation is possibly the worst in football and the defense doesn’t always show up, but this team is close to contention.

What St. Louis needs is a change of staff on the sidelines. A new staff would bring the needed energy to a franchise possibly being relocated that hasn’t made the NFC Playoffs since 2004. This Rams team has some great players on it and because they play well in the NFC West, they could finish the season at .500 (@Seattle, San Francisco).

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Previous: . Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 10. team. 48. .

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ eight-point loss on Thursday Night Football to the St. Louis Rams ended the Bucs’ playoff hopes in 2015. Though Tampa Bay will again spend January on the couch, there are many positives that this team can take with it into next season.

Tampa Bay tripled its win total in 2015. The running game is electric with Doug Martin at tailback. Jameis Winston is playing very well his rookie season. If the Bucs can fix their secondary, this team could contend in the NFC South again next season, perhaps all the way through Christmas.

9. team. 44. . . Previous: . Atlanta Falcons

Fate would have it that when the Atlanta Falcons would finally win a game, they would promptly have their playoff hopes dashed only a few hours later. The offense looked as balance as it had been since Week 4’s blowout victory over Houston. Dan Quinn has in year one turned a putrid defense into a respectable one, despite not having ideal personnel.

The Atlanta Falcons can still finish above .500, but beating undefeated Carolina in Week 16 seems unrealistic. Atlanta will have to win at least one NFC South game this year to finish at .500. If beating the Saints in Week 17 home is that lone win, Atlanta will surely take it.

Next: Tier II: NFC Playoff Contenders