NFC Playoff Picture: Despite Saints win, Falcons stay on top


Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Saints won the game, 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

With tonight and tomorrow’s matchup featuring AFC teams, the NFC Playoff Picture is bright and shiny after Week 13’s results.

Although the New Orleans Saints upset the Pittsburgh Steelers today, the Atlanta Falcons were able to beat the Arizona Cardinals to remain first place in the NFC South.

As we look to Week 14 of the regular season, each game increasingly becomes more important. Here’s how the Saints stand in the latest NFC Playoff Picture:

#1 – Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
#2 – Green Bay Packers (9-3)
#6 – Detroit Lions (8-4) vs. #3 – Philadelphia Eagles (9-3)
#5 – Seattle Seahawks (8-4) vs. #4 – Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

In the Hunt…

#7 – Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
#8 – San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
#9 – New Orleans Saints (5-7)
#10 – Chicago Bears (5-7)

With the Cowboys losing the Eagles and the 49ers losing the Seahawks, it yielded way for the Lions to jump in to a playoff spot over the Cowboys, as they hold the tiebreaker.

The NFC South looks to boil down to the Falcons and Saints, but the Panthers and Bucs are not out of the race.

1. Atlanta Falcons (5-7), 4-0 division (Wins tiebreaker over New Orleans based on head-to-head)
2. New Orleans Saints (5-7), 2-1 division
3. Carolina Panthers (3-8-1), 1-2 division
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10), 0-4 division

Looking ahead at the NFC South impact in Week 14:

Carolina at New Orleans (12PM CST/1PM EST)

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

Atlanta at Green Bay (Monday Night Football)

Worst Case Scenario: The Saints lose at home to the Panthers, while the Falcons pull off a major upset.

Best Case Scenario: The Saints continue to catch fire, win, and have the Packers beat the Falcons.

What Likely Happens: The Saints have potentially restored their swagger, so they likely win, and the Falcons lose.

Looking Further Ahead: In Week 15, the Panthers host the Buccaneers, the Falcons host the Steelers, and the Saints travel to Chicago to take on the Bears on Monday Night Football.

In case you don’t remember, here’s how how tie breakers work within 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."