Last week, the Saints lost a heartbreaker to one of their top conference rivals, the 49ers. Typically, no true Saints fan ever roots for the Falcons, but because they played the 49ers this week, this proved to be one of those rare occasions.
Because the Saints have already locked up the division title and the Falcons’ poor record all but guarantees them missing the playoffs, a Falcons win over the 49ers was a best case scenario for the Saints this week.
It was improbable, but it did in fact happen. Matt Ryan led the Falcons on a successful fourth quarter drive and retook the lead with a razor thin touchdown completion to Julio Jones with only two seconds remaining in regulation.
The Falcons then recovered a failed desperation lateral attempt by the 49ers on the final kickoff and scored a meaningless touchdown to seal the win.
BAD BEAT !!!!— #TheSpan (@WingspanSports) December 16, 2019
49ers vs Falcons combined for 45 points, then this happened on the last play of game.
O/U? 49.5 pic.twitter.com/JNznmmf6hE
This unlikely loss now puts the 49ers back into the fifth seed as the Seahawks regain the one seed because of their head to head win in week 10. The Packers resume the second seed as all three teams are tied with 11-3 records.
The Saints can improve to 11-3 by beating the Colts at home on Monday Night Football. But in order to lock down either the one or two seed and gain the benefit of a first round bye, the Saints will need some help even if they can manage to win out.
The Seahawks’ final two games are both at home against division rivals the Cardinals and then the 49ers. The 49ers’s final games are also against division rivals as they play the Rams at home before trying to even the score in Seattle.
The Packers also play their final games against division rivals, but both games are on the road against the Vikings followed by the Lions. In keeping with this theme, the Vikings end their season at home against two division rivals, the Packers followed by the Bears.
With only two games left after this week, it’s going to be hard for every domino to fall so that the Saints can regain a first round bye or the #1 seed. After all, the Seahawks and 49ers can’t both lose in week 17 because they play each other.
Even though a Vikings’ win over the Packers would help the Saints, it would also put the 10-4 Vikings that much closer to a better seed than the Saints in the end.
Perhaps a perfect scenario would include the Seahawks losing to the Cardinals then beating the 49ers, the 49ers losing to either the Rams or the Seahawks, the Vikings beating the Packers but losing to the Bears, and finally the Packers losing to either the Vikings or the Lions.
Of course all of these scenarios will only truly help the Saints’ playoff seeding result if they handle their own business by winning their final three games against the Colts, Titans, and Panthers. None of those games will be a cake walk either.
At 6-7, the Colts are still mathematically alive to make the playoffs, and their game against the Saints is essentially a must win.
Drew Brees is also three touchdown passes from passing legendary former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, so there’s a chance the Colts could also being playing for the pride of not allowing Brees to attain that feat against them during a primetime Monday night matchup.
The 8-6 Titans were riding a month long winning streak before falling to their division rival the Texans this week. Since switching from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have become a very formidable playoff underdog.
They play the Saints then Texans again to finish their season and wins against both teams will guarantee a playoff spot, therefore the Titans will be bringing their A game to the week 16 home matchup against the Saints.
Even the Saints final game of the season against a hapless Panthers team will be difficult. It’s an away game against a divisional rival with no head coach. Players will be fighting for their professional lives as their futures with the franchise are no longer guaranteed due to an inevitable change in leadership.
True.— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) December 16, 2019
But the 49ers loss helps create the situation where a 9ers loss to the Rams next week helps make SF's Week 17 game against Seattle meaningless for New Orleans (assuming the Saints win out). https://t.co/ZpYCHo043E
The road to either a #1 or #2 seed is still long and winding. Even if the Saints win their final three games, they will need other factors to fall into place. The 49ers’ loss to the Falcons was just the first baby step of many the Saints need for the possibility of a first round bye with home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With an injury report as long as War and Peace, the Saints could use all the help they can get. But first, the Saints need to help themselves by beating the Colts on Monday night.