NFC Playoff Picture: Somehow, the Saints are far from dead


Nov 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) fumbles the football as he is hit by New Orleans Saints defensive backs Corey White (24) and A.J. Davis (20) in the first quarter of their game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Gresham recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After the loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week, I told you where the Saints stood in the NFC Playoff Race. As we count down the last several weeks of football, we’ll continue to bring a weekly playoff snapshot to you. After the Saints’ latest loss to the Cincinatti Bengals, here’s how the current playoff picture shapes up in the NFC:

#1 – Arizona Cardinals (9-1)
#2 – Detroit Lions (7-3)
#6 – Dallas Cowboys (7-3) vs. #3 – Philadelphia Eagles (6-3)
#5 – Green Bay Packers (7-3) vs. #4 – Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

In the Hunt…

#7 – San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
#8 – Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
#9 – New Orleans Saints (4-6)
#10 – Chicago Bears (4-6)

It’s really going to boil down to the final weeks, as we could see a shift from a multitude of angles in the conference. Realistically, it seems that the Saints only chance of getting into the postseason is winning the NFC South, as they only have one of five head-to-head victories currently in their favor (Packers win – Lions, Cowboys, 49ers, Falcons loss).

The NFC South isn’t pretty, and that’s likely a gross understatement. Here’s how the division looks (as painful as it is), with division records.

1. Atlanta Falcons (4-6), 4-0 division (Wins tiebreaker over New Orleans based on head-to-head)
2. New Orleans Saints (4-6), 2-1 division
3. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1), 1-2 division
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8), 0-4 division

NFC South impact in Week 12:

Cleveland at Atlanta (12PM CST/1PM EST)

Tampa Bay at Chicago (12PM CST/1PM EST)

Baltimore at New Orleans (Monday Night Football)

Carolina (BYE Week)

Worst Case Scenario: A win by the Falcons and a loss by the Saints would allow the Falcons more breathing room in the grand scheme of things in the NFC South.

Best Case Scenario: A loss by the Falcons and win by the Saints puts them back ahead in the division.

What Likely Happens: Your guess is as good as mine.

Here’s a quick reminder of how tie breakers 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."