It’s scoreboard watching time! We are now firmly into the stretch run of the 2021-22 NFL regular season, as the teams that are still alive for a playoffs berth are jockeying for position to snatch the attainable postseason invites. In the NFC, which is the conference of interest to readers of this blog, the cream is starting to rise to the top, while the Wild Card battles are getting even more intense after week 15 (see chart below).
The Green Bay Packers (11-3) solidified their position atop the conference with a last-minute win over the Baltimore Ravens. They are the only NFC team to have clinched their division title and thus a playoff berth. The Packers would also receive a bye week if the playoffs started today. With a win over the hapless New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys (10-4) climbed in the second position in the NFC, thanks to the New Orleans Saints’ 9-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4). The Bucs, Arizona Cardinals (10-4) and LA Rams (10-4) round out the top five. San Francisco 49ers (8-6) and the Minnesota Vikings (7-7) occupy the last two playoff positions in the conference.
With their win over the Bucs, the Saints improved from the 11th position in the conference last week to the 9th position, as they leapfrogged the losing Atlanta Falcons (6-8) and Washington Football Team (6-8). Only two teams now stand between the Saints and the seventh and last playoff spot, with three games to go in the regular season.
So, who should you root for this week in the NFC if you want the Saints to have a chance of making it into the postseason for the fifth consecutive year?
San Francisco 49ers (8-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-5) - Dec. 23, TNF, 7:20 CT
After a 3-5 start to the season that included a four-game losing streak, the Niners have won five of their last six games and sit in the sixth position in the NFC, one game ahead of the Vikings, Eagles and Saints. They are playing an AFC team in the Titans, who is also fighting for its playoff life. No-brainer here: root with all your power for the Titans. On top of the playoff implications in this game, San Fran will always be the team that knocked Pierre Thomas out in that fateful 2011 divisional playoffs game, and probably ruined the Saints’ best chance to date at a second Super Bowl.
Minnesota Vikings (7-7) vs. Los Angeles Rams (10-4) - Dec. 26, 12:00 CT
The Vikings currently occupy the seventh and last playoff position in the NFC. They are also that unlikable team from up North who can’t ever stop whining about how the Saints roughed-up Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship game and blames that on their loss, conveniently ignoring how they coughed the ball up five times and had twelve men in the huddle at a crucial time late in the fourth quarter. Root like heck for the Los Angeles Rams, who at 10-4 are too far out of reach anyway. We want the Vikings to lose here and have their playoff chances seriously hampered.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) vs. New York Giants (4-10) - Dec. 26, 12:00 CT
This is not a tough one: I do not know a single Saints fan who finds it hard to root against the Philadelphia Eagles: their fans are probably the most obnoxious bunch in the entire league, and instead of embracing the villain role that they have fully earned for themselves, they get their breeches in a bunch if you dare to suggest that they are an unruly group. On top of all that, the Eagles are sitting 8th in the NFC, one spot ahead of the Saints and have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the New Orleans. Conclusion, root with all your dark magic for the Giants to summon some pride and hand a crushing blow to Gang Green.
Washington Football Team (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) - Dec. 26, 7:20 CT
Just behind the Saints at 6-8, the Football Team is in a slightly similar spot as the Saints are with the Eagles: New Orleans holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the WFT and is ahead of them in the standings. Even worse for Washington, they are also one full game behind the Saints. We want it to stay that way or get even worse. A loss to the Cowboys would ensure that The Football Team stays behind New Orleans, regardless of the Saints’ result against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Root with all your lucky jerseys for the Dallas Cowboys (you can throw up later).
Atlanta Falcons (6-8) vs. Detroit Lions (2-11-1) - Dec. 26, 12:00 CT
Another no-brainer: root for the Detroit Lions like your life depends on it. First, because Dan Campbell, the Lions’ head coach, used to play for and later coached the New Orleans Saints. Then, it’s the Falcons, enough said. Finally, a more practical reason to root for the Lions here is that a loss by the Falcons would keep them behind the Saints while ending their pursuit of the playoffs for all intents and purposes. Let’s Go Li-ons! Clap clap clap clap clap!
New Orleans Saints (7-7) vs. Miami Dolphins (7-7) - Dec. 27, 7:15 CT
Of course, none of this rooting will serve any purpose if the Saints do not take care of their own business. While New Orleans and Miami have the same regular season record, the Dolphins got here by winning their last six games. New Orleans has won two games in row but lost five in a row before doing so. The Saints will have to contend with the elusive Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, who is supported on the other side of the ball by a stout defense. With a depleted and underperforming offense, the Saints will likely have to win another “ugly” game, running the ball and playing good defense. If the result at the end of the game is a win for New Orleans, the style points will not matter in the least.
There you have it friends, root away and watch the scoreboard, eat a ton of burgers and if you drink, please let someone else drive you.
Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, on Instagram @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel.