FAIR WARNING – The following article is meant for those fans who are constant believers.
The ones who believe it ain’t over ’til it’s over. The ones who will say “show me the math” to believe that the New Orleans Saints are truly mathematically out of the playoff race. For those of you who look at Sunday’s game versus the Detroit Lions and realize this team cannot (and maybe should not, for their own good…) make the playoffs, turn away and read another great article on WhoDatDish. For the strong-willed, follow us down the rabbit hole.
The Saints path the playoffs currently is very simple – they need to win the NFC South. The Wild Card is a poor option, and we’ll discuss why shortly. With 4 games left in the regular season, everything the Saints need to do to help themselves lies directly in front of them. Carolina is in the rear view mirror, behind them in the standings and on the schedule.
Simply put, the Saints HAVE to win out.
Period. Are there other ways? Yes. But we’re not truly going to discuss those – they are myriad and require too much computation. The best record the Saints can finish with is 9-7, as we currently sit at 5-7. The Black and Gold have 3 division games left – They face Tampa Bay in Tampa this coming Sunday (NOTE: if you haven’t heard yet, that game time has been flexed by the NFL – we will now play a 3:25 game instead of noon on Sunday). After that, they go to Arizona to face a Cardinals team that has woefully underachieved this season. Then the Who Dats play their final home game of the year on Christmas Eve against Tampa Bay. (Could be a nice present or the Charlie Brown lump of coal in your stocking). Finally, the Saints finish up the year on New Year’s Day in Atlanta taking on the Falcons.
The Black and Gold have 3 division games left.
They face Tampa Bay in Tampa this coming Sunday. (NOTE: if you haven’t heard yet, that game time has been flexed by the NFL. We will now play a 3:25 game instead of noon on Sunday). After that, they go to Arizona to face a Cardinals team that has woefully underachieved this season. Then the Who Dats play their final home game of the year on Christmas Eve against Tampa Bay. (Could be a nice present or the Charlie Brown lump of coal in your stocking). Finally, the Saints finish up the year on New Year’s Day in Atlanta taking on the Falcons.
More from Who Dat Dish
- Are the Saints playoff contenders or pretenders in 2022?
- 3 takeaways from Saints unofficial depth chart ahead of preseason opener
- Saints 2022 Training Camp: Top 5 takeaways from Day 13
- 3 things to know about new Saints QB K.J. Costello
- Kirk Merritt could be a difficult player for the Saints to cut
As far as the Saints are concerned, these are all must-win games. As if they shouldn’t be anyway, right? But for their playoff hopes, it’s one game at a time. And none are more important than the whatever team is in front of them. Of particular importance are the 3 divisional games, because in beating those teams they also gain a game in the standings while dropping their opponents back a game. They will still need help as well. If Atlanta wins the other 3 games, even if the Saints won the 3 leading up to the season closer, the game would be meaningless in terms of winning the division. We do not control our own destiny, and that’s a hopeless, empty position to be in.
So how does this work? Who do we cheer for?
Obviously we cheer for everyone playing against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, but particularly we should love the Carolina Panthers right now. Atlanta plays @ Los Angeles, San Francisco, @ Carolina and then the Saints to finish. Let’s call the west coast teams games wins. If they lose the two division games, they end up with a 9-7 record, same as the Saints if they win out. But if the Saints win out, we’ll have a better division record (second tiebreaker after head-to-head, which we would have split) and we would be better than Atlanta for the division.
Tampa’s finishing schedule: New Orleans, @ Dallas, @ New Orleans, Carolina. Were the Saints to win out, the best Tampa could finish is 9-7. We would have beaten them twice head to head, so we would finish ahead of them. Forget the “what if we split with Tampa” scenario – for all 3 of these teams to finish at 8-8 is highly improbable.
As for the Wild Card, right now the NFC East and North hold a lot of the cards.
Dallas will likely win the NFC East and will clinch the bye and home field throughout. The New York Giants would be the first Wild Card team if the playoffs started today. Tampa would be the second. Detroit leads the NFC North, with Green Bay and Minnesota both at 6-6. Minnesota has been on a tremendous slide and doesn’t look to be a playoff team, but Green Bay can’t be counted out. Neither can the Washington Redskins in the East, who are 6-5-1. That tie can be a blessing for them, because the tiebreaker is winning percentage; a 10-6 Tampa misses out behind a 10-5-1 Washington. Also not out of the picture are the Arizona Cardinals, who sit at 5-6-1. Again the tie might help them in the end, but they have to win and help themselves.
The Saints can’t get to 10 wins and that’s possibly what it’s going to take to assure a Wild Card. Even if 9 wins gets a Wild Card, so many other things have to happen with head to head matchups and conference wins, it can make your head spin.
It’s a fun game to play, but a difficult one to decipher. Once again, suffice it to say the Saints MUST win all of their remaining games, beginning with this one Sunday to have any realistic shot at making it. A loss this Sunday leaves the chance of the Saints making the playoffs at all at less than 1% according to the formulas at PlayoffStatus.
Currently, PlayoffStatus.com says if the Saints win out, they have a 54% chance of winning the division (best case scenario for a Wild Card is only 15%). So for you die hard Who Dats out there, I give you your glimmer of hope!