Despite our being #1 in the division, we don't have as firm a hold on the division or in the conference as you may think. A few upset losses by this team and we could be out of the playoff chase. As it stands right now, if the playoffs started tomorrow, we would be the 3rd seed, with Carolina and Tampa Bay being the #5 and #6 seeds (meaning we would open vs. Tampa Bay). But Dallas is within a half game of the last wildcard spot, with Philly and Washington within 1 game, and the Rams 1.5 games. So really those teams are within a game or so of booting us out of the playoffs.
Basically, the Falcons need to win the vast majority of their remaining games if they want to ensure their playoff status, and much of that depends on how they play against division opponents. Thus far, in our lone division game, we came out very flat on both sides of the ball. That has to change. This is arguably the strongest division in football with 3 teams not only vying for division control but Super Bowl prospects.
I believe we will go to the playoffs, as we will go at least 6-3 over these final 9 games. But in this division, going 10-6 might mean you don't make the playoffs, especially when you consider how good the NFC East is also playing (which would be the other division considered to be the best in football).
I realize that this looks like an easier 2nd half if you discount Carolina and Tampa Bay, with opponents having a combined record of 13-23 (the Bucs and Panthers added to the equation make it 33-31). But if the Falcons overlook any of these teams, they are going to get upset, because we aren't as consistent a team as I and hopefully many others want. Right now, we're winning by our running game and being able to force turnovers on defense. Well guess what, 6 of our remaining 9 games come against Top 10 rushing defenses. Then we have the 13th and 17th ranked rushing defenses to play against (Detroit and Miami). So this "cupcake" schedule plays against our offensive strength. So we'll need to grow offensively if we want to win these games.
As for our success if Vick went down. I'm not as optimistic as you. Schaub has yet to win an NFL game (0-3 as a starter), and despite performing well vs. the Patriots, he hasn't proven himself yet. And probably in his future starts, defenses and coaches won't be as caught off guard like the Pats were.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.