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New Orleans Saints Playoffs Scenarios

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With three games remaining in the 2014 regular season, the Saints are still alive and well with regards to the 2014 postseason. What will it take for them to get there?

Photomanipulation artwork by Augustine Zander.
Photomanipulation artwork by Augustine Zander.

It's that time of the year again. With only three games left on their regular season schedule, we can now start thinking about playoffs scenarios for the New Orleans Saints.

Because of how weak the NFC South has been this year, only the winner of the division will make the playoffs. Here are the divisional standings before tonight's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears.

NFC South W L T PCT PF PA STRK
Panthers 5 8 1 .393 288 358 W2
Saints 5 8 0 .385 333 359 L1
Falcons 5 9 0 .357 348 369 L2
Buccaneers 2 12 0 .143 254 367 L4

As we can see, the once struggling Carolina Panthers are now amazingly on top the NFC South with a 5-8-1 record. The tie virtually gives Carolina a half victory and a half loss (think of the Panthers record as actually being 5.5-8.5), so with a half win more than the Falcons and the Saints, the Panthers are currently in first place.

At this juncture, only the Panthers, Saints and Falcons still have a chance to win the division, while the Buccaneers have been eliminated from playoff contention. It's all coming down to the wire, and here are the remaining games for the teams still vying for the NFC South division title:

New Orleans: @ Chicago (on MNF tonight), vs. Atlanta, @ Tampa Bay.

Atlanta: @ New Orleans, vs. Carolina.

Carolina: vs. Cleveland, @ Atlanta.

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Saints Playoffs Scenarios

Whether we think they deserve to get in "the tournament" or not, there are still several circumstances that would allow the New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South and host a playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome come January. Let's take a look at some of the most straightforward scenarios that need to take place for the Saints to win their fourth NFC South title under Sean Payton:

Scenario 1: Win out!

The Saints will win the NFC South if they win their remaining three games. With New Orleans at 8-8, Atlanta's best possible record would be 6-10, while Carolina's best possible record would be 7-8-1.

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Scenario 2: Win 2 of 3 and get some help!

If the Saints go 2-1 the rest of the way, they will need some losses by the panthers and Falcons to help them win the division. Here's how New Orleans could clinch the NFC South at 7-9:

1) If NO wins @ Chicago, wins vs. Atlanta, loses @ Tampa Bay:

Saints win the division with Carolina loss or tie vs. Cleveland OR Carolina loss or tie vs. Atlanta.

2) If NO wins @ Chicago, loses vs. Atlanta, wins @ Tampa Bay:

Saints win the division with Carolina loss or tie vs. Cleveland AND Carolina win or tie vs. Atlanta.

3) If NO loses @ Chicago, wins vs. Atlanta, wins @ Tampa Bay:

Saints win the division with Carolina loss or tie vs. Cleveland OR Carolina loss or tie vs. Atlanta.

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Scenario 3: Win 1 of 3 and pray!

If the Saints win only one game the rest of the way, they need that win to be against the Falcons. After that, they'll need a lot of help to make it to the postseason.

1) If NO loses @ Chicago, wins vs. Atlanta, loses @ Tampa Bay:

Saints win the division with Carolina loss or tie vs. Cleveland AND Carolina tie vs. Atlanta.

In this scenario, New Orleans would finish 6-10, Atlanta 5-10-1 and Carolina would end up with a record of either 5-9-2 or 5-8-3. Obviously, to win their division with a 6-10 record, the Saints are going to need some very, very strong voodoo.

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In conclusion, the Saints are assured a playoffs spot if they win their last three games. By winning any combination of two out of three games, New Orleans still has a fairly decent shot at winning the NFC South. If the Saints win only one game for the rest of the year however, they'll almost certainly miss the postseason.


Note:

For your sanity's sake and mine as well, I did not include any cases involving the Saints tying one or more of their remaining three games. In the event that it occurs, we will then revisit these Saints playoffs scenarios.