As we get closer and closer to the end of the regular season, it’s time to start expanding our look each week to other teams in the NFC playoff hunt.
Coming into Week 15, the Atlanta Falcons (4-9) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) were both already eliminated from the division crown. The New Orleans Saints (11-2) had already clinched the NFC South, but the Carolina Panthers (6-7) were still in contention for a wild card spot, with the Saints and Panthers playing their first of two games in 14 days Monday night.
The Saints were able to win in a defensive showdown, 12-9, on Monday Night Football. The win improved the Saints to 12-2, and dropped the Panthers to 6-8, all but eliminating the Panthers from postseason contention.
Just to make the weekend even better, the Los Angeles Rams (11-3) fell in a surprising upset against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles (6-7). The loss gave the Rams three for the season, meaning the New Orleans Saints have the best record in the NFC (and the entire NFL, for that matter).
Now into Week 16, the Saints are in control of their own destiny as far as first round byes are concerned. A win, and the Saints clinch the #1 seed in the NFC.
The New Orleans Saints, fresh off a three-game road trip, are back in the Dome to host Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) Sunday afternoon. A loss by the Chicago Bears (10-4) to the San Francisco 49ers (4-10) Sunday afternoon, regardless of the result of the Saints game, locks up at minimum, the #2 seed and a first round bye. A loss by the Los Angeles Rams (11-3) to the Arizona Cardinals (3-11) - the third and final afternoon game - coupled with a Bears loss, would still give the Saints the #1 seed.
But let’s not rely on the 49ers and Cardinals helping us out. Let’s just do it for ourselves.