The New Orleans Saints have already secured a playoff berth, their third consecutive trip into the post season, and need only to win one of their two upcoming games to secure the NFC South championship for the second time in three years.
It certainly doesn’t seem like the Saints have much of a reason to continue playing hard, but they are fighting to become the NFC’s second overall seed entering the playoffs.
Green Bay has the number one seed locked up, and the Saints are currently the third seed behind the now 12-3 San Francisco 49ers.
New Orleans has to win out, while the 49ers need to lose their last game for the Saints to have a shot at overtaking the second spot.
There is a big difference between two and three — really.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Wild Card round, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seeded wild card team, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth.
The one and two seeds from each conference receive a bye in the first round, which ensures that these teams automaticly advance to the second round, the Divisional Playoffs, where they face the Wild Card winning teams.
If the playoffs happened today that would mean the Packers and 49ers would get a week to rest and the Saints would host the Falcons at the Superdome, while the Lions would have to travel and take on the Giants at the Meadowlands.
New Orleans clearly would like the week off, and to avoid the Falcons altogether — a team that’s knows them very well. Luckily the Saints can help themselves by beating Atlanta Monday.
For now it looks like the 49ers will maintain their standing at number two with today’s win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Kicker David Akers booted four field goals, setting a new NFL record for most field goals in a season with 42, and the 49ers defense came through with a forced fumble in the closing minutes as Seattle drove towards a potential game winning field goal.
Filling in for injured inside linebacker Patrick Willis, Larry Grant tackled Seathawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from behind, forcing a fumble
that was recovered by safety Donte Whitner with a little over one minute remaining,
San Francisco then held on for the 19-17 victory, and with that the Saints chances of improving their seeding dipped significantly
The playoff picture is now starting to come into focus as the regular season winds down.
Talk of the Saints visting the Packers at home to decide the next NFC champion has been rampant, but it seems like the bigger fish for the Saints to fry now is a potential showdown with the 49ers at Candlestick Park in the divisional round.