Coming into Week 14, the Atlanta Falcons were in first place (based on tie-breakers) with an identical 7-5 record to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons hosted the Rams while the Bucs hosted the division-rival Saints. Carolina, in fourth place, hosted the AFC West San Diego Chargers.
So what happened in Week 14?
The Saints were the only NFC South team to lose this week, losing 11-16. Carolina beat San Diego 16-28, and the Falcons embarrassed the Rams to the tune of 42-14. This meant the Bucs and Falcons kept pace at the top of the division at 8-5 with the Panthers and Saints now tied at 5-8.
For all practical purposes, the season is over. The Saints hopes of winning the NFC South are over and the odds of getting a wild card spot are slim at best. There are still three weeks left to play in the NFL’s regular season, but based on playoff hopes, the Saints’s season is over as of today. That’s OK, though. The Saints can now just focus on being prepared for 2017.
Next week, the Saints travel to Arizona to face Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. The Falcons host the lowly 49ers, the Bucs travel to the NFC-leading Cowboys, and the Panthers play the Redskins on Monday Night Football.
The Saints losing next week, though, might just be for the best.