They're a lot farther from contention than their fanbase seems to think. I know I might be a touch biased, but it's going to be be very hard for them to wrestle the division away from us and Atlanta in the years to come.
I don't know, when healthy the last two months of the season they played very well. However their key pieces are all getting old and have a history of health issues so it's not likely they keep the core intact for a full season next year. However i fully expect them to be much closer to us then they were this year.