ATLANTA - In a quip made famous by NFL Films, former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville once told an official that N-F-L stands for "not for long" if the man in stripes didn't make better calls. Glanville was wrong.
The parity-driven N-F-L is structured to keep postseason hope alive for teams - and fans. For the N-F-L and playoff chases, longer is better. Witness the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, who face off tomorrow at the Georgia Dome.
With only two weeks left in the regular season, the Falcons (7-7) and even the reeling Panthers (6-8) have not been eliminated from wild-card contention in the NFC. The Falcons have lost five of seven to fall to .500 after a 5-2 start.
The Panthers, coming off an embarrassing 37-3 home loss to Pittsburgh, have lost four straight. Only five teams in the four NFC divisions have winning records, so even the free-falls suffered by the South Division rivals have not been sufficient for playoff elimination.
If losing doesn't knock the Falcons or Panthers out before late December, it only makes sense that winning wouldn't guarantee a playoff spot.
The Falcons could miss the playoffs even if they win their final two games, but are one of four 9-7 NFC teams.