As we get closer and closer to the end of the regular season, it’s time to start expanding our look each week to other teams in the NFC playoff hunt.
Coming into Week 13, the Atlanta Falcons (4-7) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) were both already eliminated from the division crown. The first place New Orleans Saints (10-1) could clinch the NFC South if they beat the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-5) and the Buccaneers were able to hand the Carolina Panthers (6-5) their fourth consecutive loss.
Unfortunately, the Saints fell to the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football in an ugly 13-10 affair, so the Saints chances of clinching were thrown by the wayside. Instead, the now 10-2 Saints were hoping from help across the league to maintain a first round bye, with the Los Angeles Rams (10-1) and Chicago Bears (8-3) all vying for the same thing.
The Buccaneers were able to help out the Saints by beating the Panthers 24-17, dropping the Saints magic number to one – meaning with one more Saints win or Panthers loss, and the Saints have officially clinched the division crown in back-to-back years.
The Chicago Bears, sitting Mitchell Trubisky with injury, surprisingly fell to hapless New York football Giants, 30-27 in overtime. The result gives the Bears 4 losses on the season, helping the Saints in their quest for at least the #2 seed and a first round bye. The Los Angeles Rams struggled with the lowly Lions, but were able to pull away late, 30-16. The win keeps the Rams in the driver’s seat for the first round bye in the playoffs.
Now into Week 14, the Saints are still in a position to get a first round bye, if not still the #1 seed in the NFC.
The Carolina Panthers (6-6) travel to the Cleveland Browns (4-7-1), and if the Panthers were to lose, the division would belong to the Saints. Regardless of how the Panthers game plays out, the Saints finally have their redemption against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) to avenge their Week 1 opening loss. If the Saints can win, the Panthers game is irrelevant. Both of those games are Sunday at noon.
After rooting against the Bears last week, the Saints will become the biggest Chicago cheerleaders this week, as the Bears take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Windy City on Sunday Night Football.
If the Saints can win, they clinch the division. If the Bears can then beat the Rams, the Saints will be back in the one seed themselves.
But first things first: