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Realistically assessing the Saints’ chances of making the playoffs

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Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pessimistic Saints fans will that the playoff hopes are gone for the Black and Gold, and that it’s time to start thinking about 2017.

Optimistic fans, on the other hand, have reason for hope for the playoffs.

Because not only are the Saints still mathematically alive for the playoffs, they also got a good start to their long chain of necessary help, when the Panthers (despicably lovable NFC South foe that they are) dispatched the Redskins on Monday Night Football. For those who don’t know yet, here are the rest of the things that need to happen in order for the Saints to secure the sixth and final NFC wildcard spot:

  • Saints need to win out
  • Vikings need to beat the Packers in Week 16
  • Both the Vikings and Packers need to lose in Week 17
  • Bucs need to lose out
  • Redskins need to lose out

I’m curious about just how feasible this winning playoffs combo is, aren’t you? So, let’s briefly break down each game and gauge the chances that the desired scenario is likely to happen to keep the Saints’ postseason chances alive. For this exercise, I’ll use five different ballpark percentages: 90% (desired scenario very likely to occur), 70% (desired scenario likely to occur), 50% (toss-up), 30% (desired scenario unlikely to occur), and 10% (desired scenario very unlikely to occur).

Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton against the Detroit Lions during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Lions defeated the Saints 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton against the Detroit Lions during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Lions defeated the Saints 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

1. Saints @ Falcons

—Although the Saints lost 45-32 last time against the Dirty Birds, Atlanta will be without Julio Jones for this rematch. The Falcons still haven’t locked the NFC South yet, and they will look to do that in this game. I predict this will be a close one despite the game being played in the Georgia Dome.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Saints win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF SAINTS WINNING: Toss-Up (50%)

2. Saints vs. Bucs

—Drew Brees had one of his worst performances of the season against the Bucs, and strong defensive help nearly helped the Saints pull out a win. It’s very unlikely we’ll see Brees have a repeat performance like that. And even more so in the Dome.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Saints win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF SAINTS WINNING: Likely (70%)

3. Vikings @ Packers

—The Packers will most certainly want revenge for their only divisional loss back in Week 2. The Packers have now won four straight, and Aaron Rodgers is starting to look like his old self again. The Vikings? They have now lost seven of their last nine, including a 34-6 beatdown by the Indianapolis Colts.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Vikings win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF VIKINGS WINNING: Unlikely (30%)

4. Lions vs. Packers

—The Lions lost the first game at Lambeau Field, and their stronghold on the NFC North could be in jeopardy if they lose another one to the Packers. With the second game in Ford Field, and with Matthew Stafford playing some of the best football of his career, this game could come down to the wire.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Lions win

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PREDICTED CHANCES OF LIONS WINNING: Toss-Up (50%)

5. Bears @ Vikings

—Both of these teams are struggling right now, so this NFC North matchup could get ugly fast.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Bears win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF BEARS WINNING: Toss-Up (50%)

6. Bucs vs. Panthers

—The Bucs were able to outlast the Panthers in Charlotte, and the rematch comes back to Tampa Bay. With the Bucs playing some of their most balanced football right now, and the Panthers being too inconsistent, I find it hard to see the Panthers winning this one.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Panthers win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF PANTHERS WINNING: Unlikely (30%)

7. Bears vs. Redskins

—Even though all three of the Bears’ wins were home games, two were against divisional rivals, and one was against the lowly 49ers. The Redskins have faced some tough competition this year, so they will probably be happy to bounce back against a lesser team.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Bears win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF BEARS WINNING: Unlikely (30%)

8. Giants @ Redskins

—These divisional rivals always play each other tough. The Redskins won the first game in a close 29-27 match in MetLife Stadium, and this next matchup in FedEx Field figures to be no different.

DESIRED SCENARIO: Giants win

PREDICTED CHANCES OF GIANTS WINNING: Toss-Up (50%)

Now, let’s take the ballpark probabilities of each desired scenario, multiply them together, and we have the probability that ALL of these scenarios will occur to propel the Saints into the playoffs:

50% * 70% * 30% * 50%  * 50% * 30% * 30% * 50% ~= 0.1%

So we can gather that there, based on ballpark estimates, there is indeed a less than 1% chance that all of the following outcomes would take place and make the Saints playoffs-bound.

Now, the optimistic Saints fans will surely tell us: “Ya Gotta Have Faith!”

Next: Saints: A blast from the past

In this case of Black and Gold postseason dreams, it will take that, and a whole lot more.

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