Updated NFC Playoff Picture: Somehow, Saints Still Control Destiny


Dec 7, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) tackles Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all that has happened with the New Orleans Saints, they still control their own destiny for the NFC South division title. It looks more and more like the Saints will meet the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16 to decide the division. Of course, that’s all speculation. You honestly can’t get a pulse on the NFC South.

Sadly, both teams lost this weekend. Carolina now sneaks in as a potential underdog to make the division race a little more interesting (or uninteresting).

As we move to Week 15 of the regular season and try to forget the abysmal performance against the Panthers, here’s how the Saints stand in the latest NFC Playoff Picture (Spoiler Alert – It didn’t change from last week):

#1 – Arizona Cardinals (10-3)
#2 – Green Bay Packers (10-3)
#6 – Detroit Lions (9-4) vs. #3 – Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
#5 – Seattle Seahawks (9-4) vs. #4 – Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

In the Hunt…

#7 – Dallas Cowboys (9-4)
#8 – San Francisco 49ers (7-6)
#9 – Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
#10 – St. Louis Rams (6-7)
#11 – New Orleans Saints (5-8)

It appears that the NFC playoff race is really taking shape right now. Dallas looks to be the only team in the Wild Card race, but they don’t hold tie breakers over the Lions or Seahawks (best conference win percentage). They’ll definitely need help down the stretch.

The NFC South is still laughable. Here’s how the division pans out:

1. Atlanta Falcons (5-8), 4-0 division (Wins tiebreaker over New Orleans based on head-to-head)
2. New Orleans Saints (5-8), 2-2 division
3. Carolina Panthers (4-8-1), 2-2 division
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11), 0-4 division

Looking ahead at the NFC South impact in Week 15:

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

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

New Orleans at Chicago (Monday Night Football)

Worst Case Scenario: The Saints lose to the Bears while the Falcons and Panthers win, which could virtually take out the Saints.

Best Case Scenario: The Saints get their act together, dominate the Bears, and the Falcons and Panthers lose.

What Likely Happens: The Falcons lose, Panthers win, and we’re going to see if the Saints respond accordingly.

Looking Further Ahead: In Week 16, the Falcons come to town to potentially set up the battle for the NFC South. Carolina hosts Cleveland while Tampa Bay hosts Green Bay.

In case you don’t remember, here’s 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."