The New Orleans Saints were the first team in the NFL to win their division, are currently 12-3, are tied for the best record in the NFC, yet would not have a first round by in the playoffs if the season ended today.
That would be because the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers are both also 12-3. With only one full week of football left in the 2019 regular season, it will come down to the wire if New Orleans wants the first seed in the postseason. The key for New Orleans? The Minnesota Vikings beating the Green Bay Packers tonight.
To be fair, the issue is that for New Orleans to obtain a first round bye they need the Packers to lose one game of their final two, but with a Week 17 matchup against the Detroit Lions, sitting at 3-11-1. it appears likely Green Bay can get a win in Week 17.
Which brings us back again to tonight’s game against the Vikings. The Vikings currently sit at 10-4, and even without Dalvin Cook, are still a talented team that could sneak out a win against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If Kirk Cousins and the Vikings are able to eke out a win - and assuming the Saints are able to win Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers - the Saints would be assured a first round bye. A Week 17 win by the Seattle Seahawks over the San Francisco 49ers gives New Orleans the top seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If San Francisco were to beat Seattle instead, the Saints would end up with the two seed (with the 49ers the one seed), but at least get a first round bye.
If Green Bay beats Minnesota tonight, there is essentially no way the Saints can get the first seed. If this happens, and Seattle can beat San Francisco in Week 17, the Saints can at least end up with the two seed and a first round bye.
But - practically - the only way the Saints can get the first seed in the NFC is if Minnesota beats Green Bay later tonight.