NFC Playoff Picture: The Saints are clinging to a playoff spot, for now


Nov 9, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton walks off the field after loosing to San Francisco 49ers 27-24 in overtime at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As crazy as it sounds, the New Orleans Saints (4-5) are in the playoffs right now. That’s right, if the season were to end today, the Saints would hold the fourth seed in the NFC for being the NFC South division champs.

Here’s how the current playoff picture shapes up in the NFC:

#1 – Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
#2 – Detroit Lions (7-2)
#6 – Seattle Seahawks (7-2) vs. #3 – Philadelphia Eagles (6-3)
#5 – Dallas Cowboys (7-3) vs. #4 – New Orleans Saints (4-5)

In the Hunt…

#7 – Green Bay Packers (6-3)
#8 – San Francisco 49ers (5-4)
#9 – Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
#10 – Carolina Panthers (3-6-1)

It’s hard to suggest that the Vikings will be there for a Wild Card race down the stretch, but stranger things have happened in the league. The Packers are nipping on the Lions’ heels in the NFC North, while the Cowboys are right on the Eagles’ tale in the NFC East.

The Saints must keep pace above the rest of the NFC South, who are deemed the league’s worst division currently. Here’s how the division looks, and specifically the NFC South records.

New Orleans Saints (4-5), 2-1 division
Carolina Panthers (3-6-1), 1-1 division
Atlanta Falcons (3-6), 3-0 division
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8), 0-4 division

NFC South impact in Week 11 (all 12PM CST/1PM ET kickoffs):

Cincinnati at New Orleans
Atlanta at Carolina
Tampa Bay at Washington

Worst Case Scenario: A win by the Falcons and a loss by the Saints would allow Atlanta to jump into the lead for the NFC South.

Best Case Scenario: A win by the Panthers and a win by the Saints would keep the Saints in firm control of the NFC South.

What Likely Happens: Atlanta wins, New Orleans wins. The Saints cling to first place, but barely.

Here’s a quick reminder of how tiebreakers work in the division, courtesy of ESPN:

"TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISIONIf, at the end of the regular season, two or more teams in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.Two teams1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the teams).2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.5. Strength of victory.6. Strength of schedule.7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.9. Best net points in common games.10. Best net points in all games.11. Best net touchdowns in all games."