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Week 9 NFL schedule: Rooting Guide for Saints fans

We look at this week's games around the NFC, and break down the big story lines in Week 9, and what to make of the weekend's schedule. The Saints have a mini-bye after last night's victory in Carolina, so who are we rooting for this week?

Grant Halverson

The Saints won!  Our team delivered a great win on the road against a division opponent, and Sean Payton game the NFL the proverbial finger.  It's great to be a Saints fan!

And now... it's Halloween weekend!  Saints fans everywhere will be able to enjoy the Halloween weekend festivities knowing that our team secured a win, on the road, against a division rival, on a short week, to overcome their losing record and take the division lead.

Whether the weekend's activities include dressing up and partying, or hanging out with the kids and eating too much candy, fans of the Black and Gold find themselves with no Saints football to watch for the third consecutive Sunday afternoon.  After waking up an hour early, because you forgot to wind your clocks back before bed on Saturday night, what is your plan for the day? If you're recovering from too much candy and/or too much partying, or just want to sit down and watch some football, there are still plenty of options.  But for whom are you going to cheer?

The Saints just took the lead of a surprisingly poor NFC South division, finally climbing out of the losing record hole.  And the postseason is still eight games away, or nine for some teams.  But there is still plenty of fun to be had in rooting for your team's best long-term chances, especially if it involves rooting against some teams you for whom we don't much care anyway.

A reporter asked Sean Payton last night if a team could win the NFC South with an 8-8 record.  It was such a ridiculous question, Coach was caught off guard; but my response to the question would likely be, "no, because the Saints are finishing better than that."  I believe our team has turned the corner, and won't be losing half of its remaining games.  Likewise, I don't assume any other team will, either.  Except probably the Bucs, and a couple of teams we don't care about.

So, way earlier than reasonable, let's take a look at whose wins or losses would be best for our team.  If nothing else, it's something to consider for those who are otherwise bound to look around and ask, "Who are we rooting for, anyway?"

NFL Rooting Guide:
Find out which games are playing in your area here.

Going into this weekend, the NFC South was considered so insignificant to the rest of the league that last night's game wasn't even projected to impact anyone's playoff chances outside of New Orleans and Carolina, except maaaaybe Atlanta.  After all, just last week there was a real chance of sending a 7-9 team to the playoffs; so nobody expects anyone to compete for a Wildcard berth.  But of the things we know about the NFC South, one of them is that almost anything is possible.

Maybe even #SaveSmitty.

After all, the Carolina Panthers started off last year with a 1-3 record, and went on to win the division while the Saints took a Wildcard berth.  So 3-4-1 doesn't put the Panthers out of the running for anything, be it the division or even a Wildcard slot.  The same is obviously even more true for the Saints.  After all, the two teams currently holding wildcard berths for the NFC are Green Bay and Philadelphia.  New Orleans is only one game behind the 5-3 Packers, and the same will be true for the 5-2 Eagles if they lose this weekend.  And the Panthers are only half of a game behind the Saints.

Unless New Orleans watches the clock run out in overtime during a tie game during the latter half of the season, there's not likely to be a tie for the lead of the NFC South.  But if the Panthers somehow go on a big winning streak, New Orleans may yet again be going through tiebreaker scenarios in December.  For now, though, here is a rundown of games that are at least a little bit pertinent to Saints fans.  While they may not have direct implications just yet, a Week 9 tilt in the right direction could put the Saints (and Panthers) right in the thick of things.  Either way, I've included who I will be rooting for in the game. Feel free to offer your own suggestions. The games are ranked in order of importance as I see them.

1.  St. Louis Rams (2-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

- 4:05 PM (3:05 Central) on FOX

It was tough to choose between the Niners and the Seahawks to top the list this week.  Both teams are competing for second place in their division, and both will fall to match the Saints at 4-4 if they lose this week.  It's always satisfying to watch both of these teams lose.  But while a Seahawks loss might be more satisfying right now, it's less likely to happen than a Niners loss to the Rams.  So Who Dats are less likely to sour their weekend by rooting for some team that doesn't matter to us at all and which will almost certainly lose to the Seattle DVOA's.  In the end, though, the Niners top the charts mostly because they travel to New Orleans next week.

Like the NFC South, the NFC West tends to play each other tough.  And as Saints fans know, even when the Rams are at their worst, they seem able to topple some of the strongest teams in the NFL.  So this may contend with the Broncos-Patriots game as the best match of Sunday afternoon.  If nothing else, it will give Saints fans (and players) an idea of what to look for when Kaepernick comes to town a week later.

Rooting Interest: Rams

2.  Oakland Raiders (0-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

- 4:25 PM (3:25 Central) on CBS

Seattle did us a favor last week, when they went to Carolina and pulled off a win.  Saints fans were happy.  Niners fans were sad.  It was a good time.  Now that they've done us that favor, though, the Who Dat nation can get the Seattle-cheering funk out of our collective minds by hoping -- against all odds -- that the Oakland Raiders manage to beat the Seahawks.  The 0-7 Raiders.  In Seattle.  Yeah, the phrase "not likely" barely scratches the surface.  But how satisfying would it be for Saints fans if the Raiders knocked Sherman's Thugs back down to a 4-4 record? Maybe even more than watching the Falcons lose to an 0-7 team.  At least for now, since Atlanta losing this season -- to any other team who knows which end zone to target -- would only be mildly surprising, at most.

So while the Seahawks are hoping to bounce back from their consecutive losses with consecutive wins, and a hope that a 5-3 record will put them on track to the playoffs... what impact will it have on the team, and their fans, if rookie Derek Carr were able to snap his losing streak and grab his first NFL win in Seattle? The collective jaw-dropping in the Clink might set off the nearby seismographs Seattle loves so much.  And someone might have to check Laveau's grave for three fresh X's.

Most of the country will be watching the Broncos play in New England late Sunday afternoon, because nobody really cares about this West Coast game.  But the Saints have absolutely no stake in the AFC's power matchup of the weekend.

Rooting interest: Raiders

3.  Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) @ Houston Texans (4-4)

- 1:00 PM (Noon Central) on FOX

Other than the Packers, the Eagles are the only team in the NFC with five wins, and neither has division lead.  The Lions, Cowboys and Cardinals are winning their divisions with six wins each.  If Philadelphia loses in on Sunday afternoon, both wildcard berths will be held (for now) by teams which are only one game ahead of New Orleans, and 1.5 games ahead of Carolina.

Hating on the Cowboys is popular, especially for Saints fans west of New Orleans.  And hating on Romo has also been popular, even for Cowboys fans.  But after watching Romo step up without complaint when Jerrah shoved him onto the field after the quarterback had taken a vicious blow to the back, I was impressed by Romo's toughness even as I thought how much it must suck to for a great QB to be stuck in that organization.  So while many Saints fans may cheer for the Eagles, simply out of spite for the Cowboys, I'll be cheering for any outcome which keeps the Wildcard berth within closer reach for the NFC South.  Even though I still love me some Sproles, and have been suffering through the LeSean McCoy 2014 fantasy football fiasco.

Besides, unless the Saints have the top seed locked up, or are out of the playoff picture completely, rooting for the AFC to beat the NFC is always a safe bet.

Rooting Interest:  Texans

4. Arizona Cardinals (6-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

- 1:00 PM (Noon Central) on FOX

With both teams leading their divisions at six wins, it is impossible to predict what impact this will have on the Saints playoff picture eight weeks from now.  With Romo being hurt again, it may be more likely that the Cowboys would fall from their pedestal and into the wildcard race.  But anything else is just based on emotion.  Many Saints fans will always cheer against the Cowboys.  And while I don't fall into that category, I have to admit that a Cardinals win would put a smile on my face.

After 2009, I started cheering for them out of an increased respect for what they did with Kurt Warner at the helm.  The fact that Niners and Seahawks fans have become exponentially more obnoxious in the past five years makes it even easier to root for the Cardinals to make them sad.  So while there may be no way to pick based on the 2014 playoff picture, I'm rather certain I know how most of the Who Dat Nation will be pulling.

Rooting Interest: Cardinals


While the playoffs are so far away that above games represent only a minor interest, the below games are only worth noting because at least one NFC team is playing.  To see which games are playing in your area, Click Here.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6) @ Cleveland Browns (4-3)
- 1PM Eastern (Noon Central) on FOX
Rooting Interest:
Browns are AFC, and watching our division opponents flounder is fun, or funny, at least when it's not sad.  Or is it time yet to pull for the Bucs to fall in the 2015 NFL Draft order?

6. Washington Redskins (3-5) @ Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
- 1PM Eastern (Noon Central) on FOX
Rooting Interest:
Redskins all around.  Living in Virginia, I personally would like to see them lose.  But both teams can't lose, and... well, Vikings fans!  Ugh.  Besides, I know many of you will cheer for anything that makes Cowboys fans sad; so Washington tends to get your love, on that account.