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What if... the officials got the call right to end Week 10?

What could have gone differently if the Broncos returner was correctly ruled out of bounds.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Week 10, the Saints were coming off a blowout win against the 49ers in San Francisco. The Saints were alone in 2nd place in the NFC South with a .500 record at 4-4 with the first place Atlanta Falcons traveling to the Meadowlands to face the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles beat the Falcons 15-24 in the Battle of the Birds, dropping the Falcons to 6-5. If the Saints could beat the Broncos, the Saints would improve to 5-4, now only one game back in the division and looking to at least contend for a Wild Card.

However, it wasn’t meant to be. With the score tied 23-23 after a late-game touchdown, the Saints would be kicking an extra point to take the lead, and most likely, the game. Instead, the kick was blocked and returned for two points even though it looked fairly clear that the Broncos returner stepped out of bounds on his way to the endzone.

If the call is overturned and if “leverage” is identified and called (but should it have been?) then the Saints are able to re-try the PAT. Rookie Kicker Will Lutz, after having early season struggles, was excellent later in the season and presumably nails the re-try. This leads to a 24-23 Saints win. Even if leverage is not called, and the Saints go into overtime with the score tied, the Broncos offense had been putrid this game, meaning it’s highly likely the Saints go on to win 30 or 26 to 23 (depending on TD vs FG).

This loss was one of the final turning points of the season, eliminating almost all of the momentum the Saints were building (after the blowout win against San Francisco and a nail-biter of a win over Seattle). In fact, according to NumberFire, the Saints had a 35% chance of making the postseason heading into Week 10, and after the loss, the odds only got less and less.

Now this might not be very fair, but I’m going to bet this heart-breaking loss along with the quick turnaround week (having to travel to Carolina and play the following Thursday), helped cause the Saints upset loss to Carolina, 20-23. If the Saints are instead coming off the high of a game-winning drive, the Saints are presumably able to ride that momentum into a Week 11 victory over the Panthers.

This then makes the Week 13 matchup with the Detroit Lions that much more important. There’s no reason to think the Saints somehow play significantly better under this hypothetical, so it’s safe to write this as another loss. That means at this point both the Saints and Lions would finish with identical 9-7 record, but the Lions would hold the tie-breaker over the Saints based on a head-to-head victory.

But I think Week 14 might go down differently as well. In Week 14, the Saints are basically (but not mathematically) out of playoff contention. Saints first year WR Michael Thomas missed the Week 14 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Saints dropped the game 11-16. If the Saints are instead continuing to play for the postseason lives, Michael Thomas might try to suit up for the game. In their Week 16 matchup, Thomas hauled in 6 passes for 98 yards. Adding that kind of production to the Saints Week 14 performance where the offense scuffled, and the Saints most likely sweep the Bucs.

That would mean the Saints would now finish with a record of 10-6, the 6th Seed in the postseason. They would then be playing tomorrow in Seattle, against a Seahawks team they already beaten earlier in the season.

There’s a lot of assumptions in this hypothetical change in fortune, but just think about how differently the season could have gone if one call had gone a different way.