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 16, the New Orleans Saints (12-2) had already locked up the NFC South. If Saints could beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) at home, they would lock up the #1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Saints lost but the Chicago Bears (10-4) also lost to the San Francisco 49ers (4-10), the Saints would at least be guaranteed a first round bye. If the Bears tied, and the Los Angeles Rams (11-3) also tied the Arizona Cardinals (3-11), the Saints would be get the #1 seed even with a loss to the Steelers.
Well, none of that other “what-if” stuff ended up mattering. The Saints took care of business themselves, beating the Steelers 31-28 in a playoff-caliber heart-stopper. That means the Saints have locked up home field advantage, regardless of the Saints’ outcome in Week 17.
The Saints, their coaches, and their fans, now have the luxury of sitting back and watching two weeks (Week 17 and the first round of the playoffs), only concerned with one thing: who will the Saints host in the divisional round?
Now into Week 17, there are really just looking to see what happens around the NFC playoff picture.
The Los Angeles Rams (currently the #2 seed at 12-3), host the lowly San Francisco 49ers (4-11). If the Rams win, they will clinch the #2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs. If the Rams lose, and the Chicago Bears (currently the #3 seed at 11-4) beat the Minnesota Vikings (the sixth seed at 8-6-1), the Bears will be the team with a first round bye, dropping the Rams to the #3 seed. The Philadelphia Eagles (outside the playoffs as it stands now at 8-7) will also be watching that Vikings game. If the Eagles can beat the Washington team (7-8) and the Bears beat the Vikings, the Eagles would be able to split past the Vikings as the #6 seed.
In the divisional round, it would be impossible for the Saints to play the Los Angeles Rams or the Chicago Bears, regardless of the outcome of their Week 17 games. Because the NFL reseeds after each round of the playoffs, the Saints would play the lowest remaining seed out of the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, and/or one of the Minnesota Vikings or Philadelphia Eagles - whichever of those two makes the playoffs.
But at this point, the Saints focus is on one thing only: