I was asked about the playoff picture/scenarios by @Drekare504 and I tweeted/posted on facebook some scenarios but I thought I'd take advantage of the extra space here to really spell out where we stand in terms of the Saints and the playoffs as of this week.
As you likely know, the Saints are 10-3 and currently atop the NFC South and in control of the second seed in the NFC. The top two seeds advance to the playoffs with a BYE. So right now the Saints will not play the wild card weekend and would host a home game the following weekend. Of course this can all change. But assuming they were to win that divisional round home game, they would either travel to Seattle for the NFC Championship (if Seattle remains the top seed and wins) or host whichever team beat them. With that said, let's look at the NFC South picture first:
The Saints will win the division, no matter what, with a victory in Carolina next Sunday. So the Rams and Bucs (in week 17) games do not matter if the Saints beat the Panthers in Carolina. This is because the Saints are a game up on the Panthers, and they would sweep them and be two games up with another win against them. They could lose the other two, and the Panthers could win the other two… and they would be tied for the division lead at the end of the season in that scenario. The Saints would own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating them twice. The Saints can also lose to Carolina, but beat the Rams and Bucs and win the division. If the Panthers win out and the Saints go 2-1, they would both have 12-4 records and be tied in head to head. They would also have the same NFC South record. But Carolina would have 3 conferences losses and the Saints would only have 2, so the Saints would own that tiebreaker by virtue of having the better NFC record. If the Saints go 1-2 and lose to Carolina, they need help. If the Saints lose to Carolina, they would be tied, and another loss would mean the Saints need the Panthers to lose once too to have a chance. This is where it gets trickier in terms of tie breakers. If they are tied head to head, the NFC South record comes into play first. So if the Saints are going to lose one besides the Panthers, they are better off with it being the Rams (and beating the Bucs). If they beat the Rams and lose the last two, Carolina would have a better NFC South record and own the tiebreaker. Hopefully it doesn't come to that. If the Saints lose out, they could still win the division if Carolina only wins against the Saints and loses the other two.
Next we'll talk about the 2 seed.
It is very unlikely the Saints will be the 3 or 4 seed, it's almost assured they will either be the 2 seed, the 5 seed or the 6 seed. This is because the (other division leaders) Eagles are 8-5 and two games behind the Saints with 3 games left, and currently down in the tiebreaker. The Lions are 7-6 so they cannot catch the Saints, unless the Saints lose out and the Lions win out. If the Saints win their division by beating the Panthers but lose to the Rams and Bucs, the Eagles could get the 2 seed by winning out. In that scenario the Saints would be the 3 seed. If the Saints win 2 of their last 3, and which games don't matter, they have secured the two seed at minimum. The Saints are also one game ahead of the 49ers but own the head to head tiebreaker, so if the Saints lost the division to the Panthers, they'd also have to end up one game behind the 49ers to end up as the 6th seed. They would either have to go winless, or go 1-2 (with that one win not over the Panthers) and have the 49ers win out.
So assuming the Saints win 2 out of their last 3, or at least beat the Panthers, they still have an outside chance of catching the Seahawks for the top seed. If the Saints win out, they would need the Seahawks to lose twice to get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Saints win 2 out of their next 3, they would need the Seahawks to lose out to get the top seed.
So with that, here are the remaining schedules worth paying attention to:
When I look at these schedules I feel like these teams will all take care of business. Unfortunately they don't have to play each other at all. Based on that, it's key for the Saints to make sure they handle their own side of things. The good news is they only have to go 2-1 over the next 3 to guarantee the 3 seed. So we have to hope for that.