Kristian: Saints very much alive for postseason
Kristian@wwl.com - After the Saints started 0 and 4, I was one of many that had written them off for the season. I started looking ahead to April’s NFL draft, thinking I might be in New York for a top-10 selection.
Boy, am I glad I was wrong.
The Saints all of a sudden win 4 of their last 5 games and are in contention for a wild card berth. They’ll need a lot of help down the stretch, but it’s highly possible New Orleans could get into the tournament.
Here are a couple of things that have to fall into place and a review of tie-breaking procedures in the NFL:
First things first: New Orleans has to prove they can handle success after toppling the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons last week. The Saints face a 3 and 6 Oakland Raiders team that is begging to be put out of their misery this Sunday. You can’t think playoffs if you can’t beat a Raiders team that has been woeful in two straight losses.
Down the stretch they come: Three of the Saints’ final six games are at home. Likewise, three of those match-ups are against three playoff teams from a season ago, and all three of which looked to be poised for another run. San Francisco visits New Orleans after thanksgiving on a short week. The Saints then go on the road against New York and Atlanta. The Giants are always tough on the road, and the Saints potential face bad weather up there. The Falcons game will be another 4th quarter brawl that could go either way. NFL network will have plenty of storylines leading into that one. In week 15, the Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom they’ve beaten once this season in a shootout in Tampa. The Bucs are also in contention for a wild card berth, and this game very well could go a long way in deciding that 6th final spot. Like the Saints, the Dallas Cowboys hold an outside chance of getting into the dance, and host New Orleans in week 16. Will the Cowboys fold in December again? And finally, the Saints will need a win in their week 17 home game against the Panthers. Carolina beat the Saints in week 2, but both teams have gone in opposite directions in the weeks since.
The NFC playoff picture as it stands now:
#1 Seed: Atlanta Falcons 8-1
#2 Seed: Chicago Bears 7-2
#3 Seed: San Francisco 6-2-1
#4 Seed: New York Giants 6-4
#5 Seed: Green Bay 6-3
#6 Seed: Seattle 6-4
In the hunt:
#7 Seed: Minnesota 6-4
#8 Seed: Tampa 5-4
#9 New Orleans: 4-5
** The Saints have another shot at Tampa, with an opportunity to make up some ground. The Saints will not play the Vikings or Seattle in the regular season. Green Bay would own the tie-breaker over New Orleans in their week 4 victory against the Saints.
The Bucs’ remaining schedule:
Week 11: @ Carolina—Pull for the Panthers to somehow get a win.
Week 12: vs. Atlanta—Believe it or not, you have to pull for the Falcons
Week 13: @ Denver—once again another tough match up for the Bucs in Mile High.
Week 14: vs Philly—No chance they stub their toe here.
Week 15: @ New Orleans—could be a big match up.
Week 16: vs St. Louis—Jeff Fisher won’t let his team quit despite being out of it.
Week 17: @ Atlanta—normally this would be good, but if Atlanta has the #1 seed all locked up, the Falcons will play the backups.
Projections: Tampa could finish at 9 and 7 with three losses against Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans. If the Falcons are still trying to secure home field in week 17, that could be a fourth loss dropping them to 8 and 8.
Vikings remaining schedule:
Week 11: Bye (they will need it)
Week 12: @ Chicago—The Bears are bucking for the #2 seed and Green Bay is right on their heels.
Week 13: @ Green Bay—I know it’s a divisional game, but they won’t go into Lambeau field and beat the pack.
Week 14: Vs Chicago—yeah the schedule makers are cruel.
Week 15: @ St. Louis—Ok they’ll get a break here
Week 16: @ Houston—The Texans are fighting for the #1 seed in the AFC
Week 17: Vs Green Bay—yeah it’s at their place but the Packers could be ready to squeeze the division
Projections: Nobody thought the Vikings would be in position to think about the play offs after going 3 and 13 last season. Running Back Adrian Petersen is the comeback player of the year, but this schedule is brutal. I objectively see maybe 2 more wins for them down the stretch. If that’s the case the Vikings finish at 8 and 8. You could make the argument that 7 and 9 is realistic.
Seahawks remaining schedule:
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: @ Miami—it’s always tough to travel across the country, plus the Hawks have just 1 road win this season.
Week 13: @ Chicago—the Bears, to good of a defense against a poor passing attack.
Week 14: vs Arizona—The Cards have fallen apart. This is a win for Seattle.
Week 15: @ Buffalo—aside from foul weather fouling things up Seattle should get another win.
Week 16: vs San Francisco—this will be for the NFC west crown, and it’s a tough road venue for any team.
Week 17: vs St. Louis—another possible win at this point in the season.
Projections: I think the Seahawks will go 3 and 3 down the stretch. They’ve never won more than 2 in a row all season, and can’t win on the road. Three of the final six are away from their vaunted 12th man. With this projection the Seahawks will finish at 9 and 7. That still might get it done in the NFC. We’ll go over the tie breakers in a sec.
Tie-breaking procedures: If two or more teams finish the season tied for one of the two wild card spots, the following scenarios will apply. If the two teams are from the same division a different formula is factored in. However, for the sake of this argument, let’s say Seattle and New Orleans is tied at 9 and 7.
1. Head to Head: Does not apply, the Saints don’t play Seattle
2. Conference record: BINGO.
Who would win that tiebreaker? Ok pay close attention. Entering week 11 the Seahawks are 4 and 4 in the conference and New Orleans is 3 and 3. Seattle has 4 conference games remaining. The Saints have 6 NFC games remaining. What if they end in a tie at the end of the season? What’s the next tie breaker? Common games. The Saints and Seahawks, play 5 similar opponents. Seattle has beaten Green Bay, Dallas, and Carolina, and lost to the Niners. The Saints have lost to, Green Bay, and Carolina and would have to beat the Niners and Cowboys to even make it interesting.
Are you confused yet? Hang on, I am getting there.
The bottom line is I think the Saints have to go 6 and 1 down the stretch here to get into the post-season. A tough task, but not insurmountable.
Just imagine a chance for New Orleans to play at home for the Lombardi after starting the season 0 and 4. Just a few weeks back, a “Black and Gold Superbowl” unthinkable.
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