Looking at the NFC South playoff picture

TAMPA, Fla. -- It's that time of year when we start talking about playoff scenarios, so let's do it.

Click over here and you can see where things stand if the season ended today. Things are looking good for most of the NFC South. As of this moment, the Atlanta Falcons would hold the NFC's No. 1 seed. In other words, they'd have home-field advantage and that's hugely significant. Since quarterback Matt Ryan joined the team, the Falcons have lost only one game Ryan has started in the Georgia Dome. That happened in 2008, Ryan's rookie year.

The 8-3 New Orleans Saints would be the top wild-card team and the No. 5 seed. The Falcons and Saints are the only two NFC South teams that would be in the playoffs at the moment.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are very much in the race. At 7-4, they have the same record as the New York Giants, who would be the No. 6 seed at the moment. Tampa Bay and Green Bay are both 7-4 and very much within striking distance of a playoff spot.

What's that say about the strength of the NFC South?

"I think it's the competitiveness of the NFC South,'' Atlanta coach Mike Smith said moments ago in a conference call with the Tampa Bay media. "The NFC South is probably the most competitive division in the league. I know it has been at least in the three years I've been here. There isn't much difference from top to bottom.''