With their win over the Oakland Raiders, the New Orleans Saints now sit with a .500 overall record and find themselves - incredibly - in the thick of the playoff hunt.
That's right. The Saints are currently tied with Dallas at 5-5 and just one game out of that sixth and final wildcard playoff spot. In their way are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, all with 6-4 records.
|3.||San Francisco 49ers||NCW||6||2||1||.722||213||127|
|4.||New York Giants||NCE||6||4||0||.600||267||216|
|5.||Green Bay Packers||NCN||7||3||0||.700||263||207|
|7.||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||NCS||6||4||0||.600||287||230|
|10.||New Orleans Saints||NCS||5||5||0||.500||287||273|
I really can't tell you how grateful I am that we even have the opportunity to talk about this, after the Saints frightening 0-4 start. Winning the division is an almost outright impossibility, barring some record-breaking meltdown of epic proportions by the Falcons. So you can throw that option out the window. But the door is wide open in the wildcard race.
But the road ahead won't be easy. Particularly their next three games, facing opponents with a combined record of 21-7-1.
Saints Remaining Schedule
|San Francisco (6-2-1)||Sun 11/25||3:25 PM CST|
|@ Atlanta (9-1)||Thu 11/29||7:20 PM CST|
|@ New York Giants (6-4)||Sun 12/09||3:25 PM CST|
|Tampa Bay (6-4)||Sun 12/16||12:00 PM CST|
|@ Dallas (5-5)||Sun 12/23||12:00 PM CST|
|Carolina (2-8)||Sun 12/30||12:00 PM CST|
The two most important games are the ones against Dallas and Tampa Bay, who are fighting for that last playoff spot themselves.
This is the final playoff stretch. The Saints need to finish strong now more than ever. It's looking like a final record of 10-6 will be the magic number to make the dance, assuming no other team goes on a winning tear.
The good news is that if the Saints can win five of their next six, including the Dallas and Tampa Bay games, they'll hold the tie breaker over each of those potential playoff teams except the Vikings.
I'd say the Saints control their own destiny at this point.