Saints still have one playoff path if Buccaneers clinch NFC South

The New Orleans Saints could still clinch a Wild Card berth, even if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinch the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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The New Orleans Saints kept their playoff hopes alive on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium with a victory over the favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had beaten the Saints at Caesars Superdome earlier in the year.

Both teams are 8-8 heading into Week 18, but the Buccaneers hold the tiebreaker. Both teams are 3-2 within the NFC South, but the Buccaneers' record against common opponents is 7-4, while the Saints' record is just 5-6.

So to win the NFC South, the Saints need to defeat the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday and have the Buccaneers lose to the league-worst Carolina Panthers. If you include the possibility of ties, the Saints can clinch with a win and a Buccaneers tie -- or a tie and a Buccaneers loss.

ESPN FPI gives the Saints a 60.78% chance of beating the Falcons and the Panthers a 27.88% chance of beating the Buccaneers, giving the Saints just a 16.95% chance of becoming NFC South champions for the first time since 2020.

But the Saints also have a 6.82% of earning a Wild Card berth. And if both the Buccaneers and Saints win, the Saints still have a 15.55% chance of sneaking in as the No. 7 seed.

How the Saints can clinch a Wild Card berth

They would need both the Green Bay Packers to lose to the Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks to lose to the Arizona Cardinals. Both the Packers (57.53%) and Seahawks (63.39%) are favored, so this is somewhat of a longshot.

The Saints do not hold the tiebreaker over the Packers or the Seahawks. The Packers beat the Saints head-to-head, and the Seahawks' record within the NFC would be one game better than that of the Saints if the two remain tied in overall win percentage.

And in the event of a three-way tie, the Saints would also be eliminated due to an inferior NFC record, handing the tiebreaker to the Packers over the Seahawks on strength of victory.

Ties by the Seahawks and Packers would also suffice with a Saints victory. And if you include the possibility of ties, the Saints can also get in the playoffs as a Wild Card team with a tie if both the Seahawks and Packers lose.

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No matter how you slice it, the New Orleans Saints do not control their own destiny. A win only takes their overall playoff chances to 39.09%, so they are going to need help if they are to win the NFC South or secure the No. 7 seed.

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