The New Orleans Saints (11-3) head to the NFC playoffs for the third consecutive NFL season as NFC South champions. Their seed for conference tournaments, however, is very much in flux and going into the final two weeks of 2019.
Their record is identical to the NFC North-leading Packers, the NFC West Leading Seahawks and the 49ers. This means that the Saints, currently No. 3, can end up anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3. Here’s an analysis of all of these scenarios.
MORE: Scheduling of AFC, NFC playoff matches
NFL Playoff Picture: How the Saints Get Seed No. 1 of the NFC
Let’s start with the Saints’ victory (Week 16 at Titans, Week 17 at Panthers) to get to 13-3. The first thing the Saints need is the 49ers to lose once because they lost to them. Then the packers also need to lose once, because the Saints lose the distinction of recording conferences for them. A three-run tie puts the 49ers first, the Packers second, and the Saints third, because the 49ers beat the other two.
Now, if the Saints win out with both the 49ers and Packers losing at least once, the Saints will be the No. 1 seed. That’s because the Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle in this scenario, if the Seahawks also win out to reach 13-3 to win the NFC West and match the Saints record.
How the Saints Get the Seed No. 2 of the NFC
The Saints would do it by winning, with either the 49ers or the Packers losing once, while the other winning out. The Saints can also get this seed by finishing 1-1. They hope the Seahawks will win the NFC West 13-3, taking the 49ers out of the picture for the No. 2. The Saints won’t jump to the Packers if that team goes 1-1 if the Saints defeat the Titans but they lose to the Panthers. This is because the Packers would retain the distinction of conference.
But if the Saints and Packers go 1-1 with the Saints losing to the Titans but defeating the Panthers, then comes the power of victory because the Calendars (9-3) and Common Games (4-1) be the own. The teams that have beaten the Packers have 66 combined wins. The teams that have beaten the Saints have a combined 73 wins.
If the Packers lose the Vikings but defeat the Lions, they cannot close the gap because they add only 3 or 4 wins to their opponents. If the Packers beat the Vikings but lose to the Lions, then it’s complicated, as they can add up to 12 wins to that total to reach 78. The loss to the Titans and the Panthers ‘victory will increase their opponents’ overall victory. Saints at least 78.
But then comes the timetable, which the Saints will have because they play the NFC West and AFC South out of their division, against the Packers playing the weaker NFC East and AFC West. So the Saints, on this path to 1-1, are considering the possibility of siding between the NFC West and the NFC North champions.
How the Saints Keep Seed No. NFC 3
The Saints remain where they are if they win both the 49ers and the Packers. The Saints also don’t move up or down if they finish 12-4 if either the 49ers go 12-4 or the Seahawks go 13-3 to win the NFC West and the Packers stay ahead of the Saints either by winning or separating. the last two, the latter case depends on the loss of the Saints by the Panths. Should the Saints go 1-1, there is a high likelihood that they will remain No. 3 behind the NFC West champions and the Packers.
If the Saints somehow go 0-2 to drop to 11-5, there’s no chance they can still go up from No. 3. That’s because either the Seahawks and 49ers are set to go at least 1-1 to finish at least 12-4 win the NFC West. The Packers would lose their worst 1-1 division to finish 12-4. The Vikings can’t beat the NFC North by going 1-1 to finish 11-5, so it would be in front of the Saints to win out to become the champions 12-4.
If the Packers somehow beat the North by losing out and going 11-5 and the Saints have the same record, the Saints would be in luck. Because that means the Saints would lose to the Panthers and the Packers would be 4-1 against the Bears, Cowboys, 49ers and Panthers while the Saints would be 3-2 against the same plate.
There is a big difference between no. 3 and no. 2 in a crowded, tough NFC playoff field. The Saints would really benefit from a first round and the advantage of racing home at least in the sectional round. The Saints can only control what lies ahead, but their victory will make them sit for a more favorable position.