A month has gone by since opening night. We’re almost at the 20% mark of the season. And in the Western Conference http://www.falconsfootballauthentics.com/julio-jones-jersey-authentic , some 14 of the 15 teams are still in position to chase a playoff spot.This isn’t really an exaggeration, either: the No. 14 Timberwolves are 2.5 games out of No. 8 and just 3.5 games out of No. 4. The No. 13 Mavericks are a half-game better and just beat the Jazz -- a 2018 playoff team -- by 50. Four teams are tied at 7-7 at the No. 9 spot. Can you imagine if 12 Western Conference teams finished the season at .500 or better, with four of them missing the playoffs? (Because you’re wondering: the East has seven teams at .500 or better, and four teams essentially out of the playoff chase. If the current pace held, the East would advance one team below .500 to the playoffs while the West would send four teams at .500 or better to the lottery.)Who is going to drop out of this Western pack? Most would point to the Mavericks (who were approaching calls for tankdom a week ago but rebounded) and Kings (who keep defying gravity). The Timberwolves would be a stronger candidate for a crash if they hadn’t won both games since the Jimmy Butler trade with Karl-Anthony Towns playing like an All-NBA center. The Clippers and Grizzlies have been the best versions of themselves despite offseason doubts. The Spurs survived, and the Pelicans are getting enough from the players around Anthony Davis.Injuries could totally knock a couple teams out of the race and give us a smaller pool to work from. So could unstoppable regression to the mean. But until that happens, this is a pretty wild and deep race for the playoffs among the entire Western Conference except for the Suns. ScoresWarriors 86, Rockets 107Hawks 93, Nuggets 138Spurs 111, Clippers 116ScheduleOn Friday:Raptors at Celtics www.atlantafalconsteamonline.com , 7 p.m. ET, ESPNJazz at Sixers, 7 p.m. ET, League PassKings at Grizzlies, 8 p.m. ET, League PassBlazers at Timberwolves, 8 p.m. ET, League PassBulls at Bucks, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNOn Saturday:Nuggets at Pelicans Atlanta Falcons T-Shirt , 7 p.m. ET, League PassJazz at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TVKings at Rockets, 8 p.m. ET, League PassOn Sunday:Grizzlies at Timberwolves, 3:30 p.m. ET, League PassWarriors at Spurs, 7 p.m. ET, NBA TVFull schedule here.LinksMike Prada with a deep dive video breakdown of Nikola Jokic Atlanta Falcons Hats , the unicorn with the dad bod.The Rockets acknowledged on Thursday that they are parting ways with Carmelo Anthony. Houston’s front office is trying to put Melo in the best light possible, and it looks like they may try to work out a trade that Melo agrees to instead of putting him on waivers for anyone to think briefly about picking up before letting it pass. Draymond Green made a statement and refused to answer questions on Thursday; Paul Flannery reads between the lines of Green’s most pertinent quotes. Why the Warriors really suspended Draymond: he cut too deep on the free agency issue. What’s Draymond’s trade value? How the drama shows Stephen Curry’s cultural importance to the Warriors. Nathaniel Friedman on how emotions work in sports. Brian Windhorst calls Durant the most powerful man in basketball.Zito Madu on the simple beauty of teams blowing huge leads.Kelly Dwyer on Jimmy Butler’s fit on the Sixers. If you love basketball, you should really subscribe to KD’s The Second Arrangement, such a pleasant email each day.Joe Vardon spent a day at LeBron’s I Promise School and writes about James’ true legacy.Zion Williamson’s Duke dunks, ranked.Part of the Magic’s decent start has been all about Terrence Ross’s triumphant return.Some awesome Kings fans are raising money for Camp Fire victims. Help out, if you can.Rob Mahoney on Victor Oladipo. Click.How the Spurs can fix their post-up problem.Imani McGee-Stafford of the Atlanta Dream on how hard it is to play basketball in China.Unionized athletes keep crossing picket lines.Be excellent to each other.Falcons vs Eagles: Who is the defensive player of the game? While picking an offensive player of the game was depressingly easy, the entire defense had a great game overall, leaving us with several strong candidates for our first award in the 2018 season. Here are my candidates for the Falcons game against the Eagles.Deion JonesHe finished the night with seven tackles and an INT and was a force in the middle yet again. His coverage was exceptional as evidenced by the complete disappearance of the tight ends for the Eagles. He’s a special player whose game is only getting better.Robert AlfordThough he should have come away with an INT, Alford had two pass breakups in the game including an incredibly impressive one downfield against Mike Wallace. He’s been railed on by Falcons fans for years, but he’s a very good CB2 in a league where good corner play is hard to find.Grady JarrettThe man in the middle had three total pressures Atlanta Falcons Hoodie , one hit, two hurries and four tackles. Going against one of the best centers in the league, Grady beat Jason Kelce on several occasions, including one where he was blatantly held but the refs were all simultaneously blinded by the lights.Ricardo AllenWith five tackles and a pass breakup, Allen had a solid night overall and was at the heart of keeping this defense in the right place. He’s an under appreciated safety whose play is consistent and dependable. Let us know who you think the defensive player of the game was in the poll below.