— The wild card playoff format is now the NFL equivalent of the World Series, with teams playing a wild-card game at the beginning of the regular season to determine which one will get to play the World Cup.
And as the playoffs approach, it’s the teams who are on the brink of the playoffs that are making the biggest leaps.
So far this season, seven playoff teams have qualified for the postseason, which will be played on Oct. 16 at the Georgia Dome.
The last time the Super Bowl was played on the Georgia-Alabama border was in 1956.
The next closest playoff spot was the one the New England Patriots were vying for when they lost in the AFC Championship Game in New England.
But those Patriots were on the verge of losing in the Superdome, which had hosted the Superbowl only once since 1967, and they were also a year removed from a Super Bowl loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Patriots’ loss was also their last regular-season game at Georgia Dome, which is owned by Georgia-Pacific, the Georgia team that owns the stadium.
The Falcons, who are the No. 1 seed and will play in Atlanta on Saturday, also have been on the cusp of winning the Super-Bowl since 2010.
But their chances of making it to the postseason are not as good.
The Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Stars, who both will play at the Atlanta Falcons’ home field, will meet Saturday.
That means Atlanta has a 1 1/2-game lead over the Stars in the NFC East, while Dallas has a 2-game cushion over the Falcons.
The final wild-cards game of the playoff season will be the Atlanta-Dallas matchup on Nov. 1.
It will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdrome, which hosts Super Bowls in a year that was marked by the worst snowfall in the history of the Super Dome.
Ahead of the season opener on Dec. 7, ESPN Stats & Info reported that the Falcons were the only team that had a winning record in its opening three games.
But after the Falcons fell to the New Orleans Saints, their record dropped to 11-4.
The Saints are also a wild card and have a chance to qualify for the playoffs.
The teams in the wild-seeded division are the Patriots, Jets, Rams, Cardinals, Broncos and Bengals.
The NFC East is currently led by the Washington Redskins, who host the Cowboys on Sunday.
The division-leading NFC North is led by Carolina, who has the No .8 seed, followed by Green Bay, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis and Detroit.
The AFC East is led to the Denver Broncos by the New York Jets, New England Broncos and Baltimore Ravens.
The West is headed by the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos.