Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!?! You kidding me?!?!?! I just hope we can win a game!
That's pretty much how I, and all of you, should feel about the Saints' chances at this point. BUT, I'm not one to give up until there's no mathematical chance. Ever if there's a sliver of hope and 785 things have to happen in perfect order for the Saints to get in, I will continue to root for that until it's a physical impossibility. After all, for years before the Sean Payton era, especially in the 80's and 90's, I turned the art of calculating how the Saints could possibly get into the playoffs down to a science. Of course, these complicated theories always rested on the Saints winning out, when losing out was a much more realistic end scenario. None the less, teams get hot and a switch can flip overnight. The Saints' backs are against the wall. They will need to win their final 4 games to have a shot. Here's the competition:
Chicago Bears at 8-4 (remaining schedule @ Vikings, vs. Packers, @ Cardinals, @ Lions)
Seattle Seahawks at 7-5 (remaining schedule vs. Cardinals, @ Bills, vs. 49ers, vs. Rams)
Washington Redskins at 6-6 (vs. Ravens, @ Browns, @ Eagles, vs. Cowboys)
Dallas Cowboys at 6-6 (@ Bengals, vs. Steelers, vs. Saints, @ Redskins)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-6 (vs. Eagles, @ Saints, vs. Rams, @ Falcons)
Minnesota Vikings at 6-6 (vs. Bears, @ Rams, @ Texans, vs. Packers)
St. Louis Rams at 5-6-1 (@ Bills, vs. Vikings, @ Bucs, @ Seahawks)
Of this list of teams, if you include the Saints, only two will make the playoffs as a wild card. It's also worth pointing out that the Bears and Packers are currently tied for the lead in the NFC North and the Giants only have a one game lead in the NFC East. For the sake of this exercise, though, I'm going to assume the Packers win their division since they own the tiebreaker over the Saints and that makes our lives easier. If the Giants end 9-7, lose to the Saints, AND they don't win their division because either the Redskins or the Cowboys catch them – that would also be a nice development.
So right now we're assuming the Saints finish the year 9-7 and win their last four games. That immediately helps them pass the Cowboys and the Bucs, who would both at best also finish 9-7 and lose a tie breaker against the Saints. The Vikings have a horrific schedule and could easily finish 6-10 losing out, and they've got the same number of NFC losses as the Saints currently, so all they need to do is lose one of their remaining NFC games (against Bears, Rams or Packers) and the Saints would own the tiebreaker over them. The Rams have three of their last four games on the road and the Saints only need them to lose one, so that should also be feasible.
So really the biggest threats to the Saints' postseason are the Bears, Redskins and Seahawks.
Bears: they are currently 8-4, so they would have to lose 3 of their last 4 to give the Saints a chance to catch them. If the Bears lose 3 of 4, the Saints would have a better NFC record than them by winning out, so the Saints would own the tiebreaker over a 9-7 Bears team. The Bears do have three road games and a home game against the Packers so this isn't as impossible as you might think.
Seahawks: they are currently 7-5, and the Saints will need them to lose twice to NFC teams to own the tiebreaker if both teams finish 9-7. Their game at Buffalo is basically meaningless to the Saints. The Saints need them to lose twice to the games against the Rams, 49ers and Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Saints the Seahawks host all three of those games so that is a very tall order. If the Seahawks get in though, all hope is not lost. The Saints could still get in if the Bears and Redskins implode.
Redskins: The Skins own the tiebreaker over the Saints, so the Saints need them to lose 2 of their last four. The game this Sunday against the Ravens seems like their toughest opponent, so this one is an absolute must.
So more than anything, you should be rooting for the Bears, Vikings and Redskins to lose. Lastly, the Giants have a brutal final schedule and so the Redskins winning out might not be the worst thing. If the Giants lose to the Saints, they would be 7-6 and the Saints would be only one game behind them while owning the tiebreaker. The Giants would then have to go @ Falcons, @ Ravens and host the Eagles. You figure that's good for at least one more loss, but then you'd want the Redskins to end up ahead of them in the NFC East so the Giants factor into the wild card picture. For this weekend, though, it makes our lives easier if all four of these teams lose. So go Saints, go Vikings, go Cardinals and go Ravens.