Atlanta Falcons clinch NFC South title, eye playoff seeding

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons were low key about clinching the fifth division title in franchise history.

The Falcons (11-1) wrapped up the NFC South on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Denver Broncos 31-23, handing Atlanta its second division championship in three years. But this team won't be satisfied unless it reaches the Super Bowl.

"Just the first step in a long journey," center Todd McClure, Atlanta's senior player, wrote on Twitter. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a rookie on the Falcons' last division-winning team, expressed a similar sentiment.

"The last time we won the division I was too amp!" he tweeted. "This time it's just like... OK, now lets accomplish the (next) goal!"

The Falcons now will turn their attention to securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. After the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears both lost Sunday, the Falcons just need to win two of their last four games to ensure they won't have to go on the road before the Super Bowl.

The division title has been an afterthought the past few weeks as the Falcons steadily pulled away from the Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. Atlanta all but locked up the championship last Thursday night with a 23-13 win over New Orleans.

Atlanta also won the NFC South in 2004 and claimed NFC West crowns in 1980 and 1998.

The Falcons can use December to tune up for the playoffs and get some players healthy, most notably cornerback Asante Samuel, who has been slowed by a shoulder injury.

Also, the Falcons are eager to turn around their recent history of flopping in the playoffs. The team was one-and-done in its last three playoff appearances dating to 2008, quarterback Matt Ryan's rookie season.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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