The New Orleans Saints (5-9) still hold on to a glimpse of hope for the postseason. After New Orleans completed the season sweep of Atlanta with a 21-18 win, Cincinnati took down Tampa Bay to keep the division wide open.
Some fans have given up on the season during different parts this year. I personally didn't lose hope until the most recent collapse against Tampa. Being swept, it seemed far-fetched to surpass Tampa in the standings but they’re still continuously losing.
New Orleans is one (essentially two) game behind Tampa for the division title, let’s look at the most likely scenario of New Orleans sneaking into the playoffs.
- Win out (Cleveland, Philly, Carolina)
- Tampa drops two of their last three (Arizona, Carolina, Atlanta)
New Orleans could also go 2-1 and get in if Tampa somehow dropped all three.
Over the past two months or so, New Orleans’ defense has pretty much lived up to the standard they set the previous three seasons. They’re getting stops, not allowing a lot of scoring and they’re doing this without arguably the best cornerback in football. The defense’s weakness has generally been stopping the run, but they’ve also gotten up to put together good/great performances against Josh Jacobs and Christian McCaffrey - let’s hope for the same against Nick Chubb. The offense looked decent against Atlanta but still clear room for improvement. Keep Kamara involved, get Shaheed more involved.
It's been a while since the Saints had a guy with the pure speed to stress a defense like this.— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) December 20, 2022
Rashid Shaheed doesn't do anything fancy here. He's just too fast for the coverage. pic.twitter.com/rejPbj8lEZ
Also... Lattimore should probably be back Saturday, making the idea of winning out more plausible. Coach DA seems to be impressed with how the defense has performed lately.
Dennis Allen on the Saints run defense: pic.twitter.com/53dmGkI7LS— NOF (@nofnetwork) December 19, 2022
What else makes the task of winning out more plausible is that Eagles’ star QB Jalen Hurts is dealing with a strained shoulder to his throwing arm. He’s already out against Dallas this weekend and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he misses the following week against New Orleans. Philly has to win just one of their last three games to clinch the 1 seed, and their division. However, Hurts’ health will be far more important than seeding to them. Whether Hurts plays or not, we’ve seen Saints football all year and we know that while the record suggests otherwise; this team still can beat anyone. Philly isn’t unbeatable by any means. Carolina in Week 18 won’t be too much of a hassle if the Saints simply decide not to play down to competition.
The Saints’ “odds” of winning the division are at 2% but it’s probably higher than that. If New Orleans beats Cleveland and gets some help from Arizona this weekend, the idea of grabbing the division becomes much more achievable.
We as fans know a lot about prematurely getting our hopes up but there’s still a lot of football to be played. I unbiasedly think New Orleans runs the table this last month. Not sure if Tampa drops two of their last three but all New Orleans can do is handle business and hope.
New Orleans will play in Cleveland on 12/24 at noon. Tampa will be in Arizona on Christmas Night, on SNF.