Saints Playoff Picture: New Orleans have crucial division battle ahead

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Saints beat the New York Jets in Week 14, but winning that game should just be the start, and not the finish line, of their 2021 season.

As with many other playoff-hopeful teams, NOLA has their best shot at making the playoffs if they win the rest of their games. That much is obvious.

Should the Saints fall to the Bucs in Week 15, which seems more like a certainty than a possibility, they still could reach the postseason, assuming other pieces fall into place.

Here’s what the current NFC playoff picture looks like after Week 14:

  1. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)
  3. Arizona Cardinals (10-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (9-4)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (7-6)
  7. Washington Football Team (6-7)

IN THE HUNT: 8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7), 9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), 10. Atlanta Falcons (6-7), 11. New Orleans Saints (6-7)

The biggest game of Week 14 was the Rams defeating the Cardinals on Monday night, causing the Packers and Bucs to take the top two seeds.

For those less fortunate fans who don’t support a perennial playoff contender, the rat race for the seventh and final playoff seed looks a bit more complicated.

New Orleans Saints’ postseason hopes are still alive after Week 14

Currently, five teams are 6-7 which means the Saints’ chances of making it to the postseason will heavily hinge on division matchups.

In the NFC South, the Falcons have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Saints, so New Orleans’ goal right now should be to claim second place in their division.

All of the remaining games on their schedule are must-wins, but Week 18 against the Falcons may be the most important — the result of that matchup could very well decide who gets a playoff spot.

Even then, there are too many scenarios to calculate to predict whether the Saints reach or miss the postseason.

For instance, if the Falcons win all four of their games, the Saints would miss the playoffs regardless of their own results.

If the Vikings, Eagles, or Washington Football Team finish with a winning record (or just win more games than the Saints do), the Saints would also likely miss the playoffs.

As of right now, though, the Saints’ direct playoff competitor is the Atlanta Falcons after losing to them in Week 8.

For the final four games, Atlanta plays the 49ers, Lions, Bills, and the Saints.

New Orleans plays the Bucs, Dolphins, Panthers, and the Falcons.

Assuming NOLA loses to the Bucs and wins the rest of their games, they would achieve a 9-8 record and get their best chance at making the playoffs.

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Anything can happen in this final stretch of the season. If it’s a question of who “deserves” postseason berth the most, that team probably isn’t the Saints, but NOLA’s fate hasn’t been sealed in 2021 — yet.