Even with San Fran loss, Saints are still poised to miss playoff bye

Chris Miller
December 16, 2019 - 1:05 pm

The New Orleans Saints' playoff seeding is getting kind of convoluted. The Black & Gold are still in third place as the NFC South champs, but there is hope.

First and foremost, the Saints need to keep winning. They have the Indianapolis Colts tonight on Monday Night Football, then they finish the season on a two-week road trip to Tennessee and Carolina.

The Atlanta Falcons, of all teams, did the Saints a favor Sunday when they beat San Francisco. But San Francisco needs to lose at least one more game this season if the Saints are to get home field advantage. If both teams finish 13-3 and San Francisco wins the NFC West, San Francisco gets the higher playoff seed because they have the head-to-head tie breaker over New Orleans.

If Seattle can win out, it will win the NFC West at 13-3. The Saints hold the head-to-head tie breaker over Seattle if both teams finish with the same record.

But there's one more wrinkle: the Saints need the Green Bay Packers to lose one of its remaining two games. 

If the Saints, Seahawks, and Packers all finish the season at 13-3, the Saints victory over Seattle in Week 3 becomes meaningless, because neither Seattle nor New Orleans played Green Bay this season. With no head-to-head with the Packers, the NFL tie breaking rules say the higher seed should be base on who had the better conference record this season.

All three of New Orleans' losses this season have been to NFC teams, while both Seattle and Green Bay have one loss each to an AFC team. So that knocks the Saints out of contention right away.

To settle the remaining tie between Seattle and Green Bay, the league will use the best win-loss-tied percentage among teams both Seattle and Green Bay have played, minimum of four. That would put Seattle in the top seed. Then the tie breaker based on conference record would be applied between Green Bay and New Orleans again for the second seed. Green Bay would get the first-round bye and New Orleans would have to play in the Wild Card round as the third seed.

"Saints gotta continue to win, and now you gotta hope the Vikings can beat Green Bay," said WWL NFL analyst Mike Detillier. 

The Vikings host Green Bay one week from tonight. Minnesota has opened as a four-and-a-half-point favorite, and both teams will have a lot to play for. Green Bay wants to win its division and keep a hold on at least the number two seed in the playoffs. Minnesota can earn a Wild Card spot with a win, and keep its hopes for an NFC North title alive for Week 17.

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