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How the New Orleans Saints could still make the playoffs

You keep hearing that the Saints are mathematically alive in the NFC Playoff race, so what does that actually mean?

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Clearly, the New Orleans Saints are poised to miss the postseason for the third straight year at 5-7. However, ‘they are mathematically alive’ as you’ve probably heard. So, what in the world does that actually mean? For starters, the Saints path to win the NFC South is not as difficult as you’d think (but then again, maybe it is).

Winning the NFC South

  • Win out final four games (at Tampa Bay, at Arizona, Tampa Bay, at Atlanta)
  • Panthers beat Falcons in Week 16

It’s that simple, because the Saints have three of their last four games against NFC South opponents and those absolutely matter. Winning out alone won’t do it, because they’d need the help from the Panthers.

Best-case scenario: Saints beat Bucs, Rams beat Falcons
Worst-case scenario: Bucs beat Saints, Falcons beat Rams

Wild Card hopes are slim, but not impossible

From the early rooting guide for Week 14, the Saints would need wins from teams like the Rams, Bears, Jaguars, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks, and Cowboys. Several of those are realistic, however the vast majority are not.

The final two spots in the NFC may be the only other way for the Saints to flirt with a Wild Card, as the 5th seeded Giants (8-5) and 6th seeded Buccaneers (7-5) are in as of now. The Saints wouldn’t want to necessarily get into tiebreaking scenarios with any club, because they’d likely lose.

Once again, winning out helps, but the Saints would not control their own destiny.

Teams ahead of the Saints in Wild Card hunt and remaining opponents

Giants (8-4): Dallas, Detroit, at Philadelphia, at Washington

Buccaneers (7-5): New Orleans, at Dallas, at New Orleans, Carolina

Redskins (6-5-1): at Philadelphia, Carolina, at Chicago, NY Giants

Vikings (6-6): at Jacksonville, Indianapolis, at Green Bay, Chicago

Packers (6-6): Seattle, at Chicago, Minnesota, at Detroit

Cardinals (5-6-1): at Miami, New Orleans, at Seattle, at Los Angeles

Of those teams, the arguable favorite to run the table would be the Packers, and the Giants would have to completely collapse to give away their 5th seed.

Naturally, the Saints have to take care of their own games before they can worry about others. Such is the nature when you get into this potential playoff talk. Sean Payton’s squad isn’t out of it just yet, but after an abysmal showing at home against the Lions, we’re all a bit anxious to see how the team actually responds. When and if that happens, then we can worry about the rest.