In case you’ve been in a coma for five or six years, the most important football game in recent New Orleans Saints history is going to be played this Sunday on Christmas Eve, December 24, at noon CST. The game will probably be broadcast on your local FOX affiliate. Be ready.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. NFL Research and Senior Director of Communications Randall Liu released this week’s playoff-locking scenarios for every eligible team, including the Saints and their rival Atlanta Falcons, who blew a 28-3 lead in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
Look over the list and you’ll probably be startled. Yeah, it’s really that simple: all the Saints have to do is defeat the Falcons. Leave the day with a win and they’ve punched their tickets for the NFC playoffs.
Sure, there’s a little more to it than that. Knocking off the Falcons just gets the Saints into the dance. They’ll need the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to overcome some Monday Night Football heartbreak and find a way to beat the Carolina Panthers before the Saints can lock down a division title.
If the Panthers win (and they likely will) the Saints have a chance at making the playoffs not as champions of the NFC South, but as a wild card. That’s significantly less-fun and something we should all collectively be wishing against.
There’s one more wrinkle: if this week’s joust between the reeling Seattle Seahawks and a feisty Dallas Cowboys team results in a tied score, the Saints can apparently be rewarded with a playoffs berth. It’s bizarre but I’m not about to question it.
So, there we have it. The easiest route to Super Bowl contention begins with a win over the Falcons this Sunday.
Okay, hang on. The Saints could also fail upwards into a playoffs appearance if they tie the game against the Falcons. But where’s the fun in that?