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UPDATED NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE: The New Orleans Saints Are “Moving On Up”

The New Orleans Saints have now won 5 straight games in a row, and as a result: they are "moving on up" with regard to the current NFC Playoff seeding, as the National Football League has reached the midway point of the 2017 regular season schedule.

The Saints are now the #3 seed in the NFC; after their 20-12 win over the Bears yesterday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

New Orleans — who was the #4 seed last week — moved past the Los Angeles Rams, who fell down two spots from the #3 seed to the #5 seed; even though they never played yesterday since they were off last week on a Bye.

The Saints are now just slightly ahead of #4 seed Seattle; who as of right now they'd beat out because of a better conference record within the NFC.

With that in mind, here's the VERY LATEST update and breakdown of the current NFC Playoff picture as things stand right now going into Week #9 in the NFL:

 

NFC

No. 1 seed — Eagles (7-1): 1st place, NFC East

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are still the best team in the NFC as of right now. They remain a threat to win the NFC this year thanks to the rapid development of 2nd year QB Carson Wentz, who has had a phenomenal season thus far.

However, the one Achilles Heel for Philly has been injuries. It's amazing that they've won 7 out of 8 games considering how many players they've lost recently. 

Losing both starting offensive tackle Jason Peters and linebacker Jordan Hicks this past week were big losses for the Eagles; and it'll be interesting to see if Philly makes any moves before tomorrow's trade deadline.

 

No. 2 seed — Vikings (6-2): 1st place, NFC North

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Vikings very quietly and almost methodically have become the 2nd best team in the conference right now, despite the fact that their offense is currently being run by journeyman QB Case Keenum.

The Vikings are obviously bolstered by what is the NFL's #1 defense, but in recent weeks it's been players such as RB Jerrick McKinnon and WR Adam Thielen (Saints fans certainly remember his name) that has helped them take control of the NFC North Division.

Like the Saints, the Vikings too are also on a winning streak (4 straight); and their win over the Saints back in Week #1 could be what ultimately ends being the difference maker in any tie-breaking procedures between the 2 teams.

 

No. 3 seed — Saints (5-2): 1st place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt, Getty Images

The Saints have now won 5 straight games; and while there certainly have been other factors that have led to their renewed success this season such as the addition of RB Alvin Kamara for example; no one factor has had an impact as big as the total and complete revival of the much-maligned defense of the past 3 seasons.

Yesterday the Saints won 'ugly', but despite committing 2 turnovers, 7 penalties, and converting only 2 out of 9 on 3rd down conversion attempts, showed that they are capable of winning games even when they're not exactly playing at their very best.

Fun fact: the current 2017 Saints team is now only the 8th team in the franchise's entire 51-year history to have a 5-game winning streak. The other 7 Saints teams with 5-game winning streaks (1987, 1991, 1992, 2000, 2009, 2011, and 2013) ALL made the Playoffs.

 

No. 4 seed — Seahawks (5-2): 2nd place, NFC West

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times

Love them or hate them, the Seattle Seahawks remain a team that's always a legitimate contender to win a Super Bowl, despite the turnover at several roster positions that has made them somewhat vulnerable.

Yesterday, the Seahawks were fortunate enough to escape with their lives after they were unwillingly pulled into a "shoot out" with Houston Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson

To his credit, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was able to match Watson's super-human performance; but he'll have to be even better than that to keep the Seattle's sights on winning the NFC West division title and making some serious noise in the Playoffs.

 

No. 5 seed — Rams (5-2): 2nd place, NFC West

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

As we mentioned in our look at the NFC Playoff picture last week, no other team besides the Saints themselves have  been a more bigger surprise in this conference than the Rams.

But they actually fell 2 spots seeding-wise while on their day off yesterday; and also are now in 2nd in the NFC West division behind the Seahawks, to whom they've lost to once already this season.

The Saints will play against these very same Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum on the Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend; in what could shape up to be a key battle for Playoff positioning within the conference.

 

No. 6 seed — Panthers (5-3): 2nd place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Despite looking like one of the conference's most inconsistent teams from week-to-week, the Panthers were able to "bounce back" yesterday at home, following a week of controversy surrounding starting QB Cam Newton.

Carolina moved back into the Playoff picture as they knocked the idle Green Bay Packers (who were also off yesterday) out from this final #6 seed position, with an "ugly" 17-3 win of their own against Tampa Bay yesterday.

But next week they'll get to face their division rivals the Atlanta Falcons, in what promises to be a typical NFC South "dog fight" at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte; and which no doubt will go a long way in ultimately determining which team (them, the Falcons, or the Saints) will eventually rule this division by season's end.

 

Who's right behind: Packers (4-3), Falcons (4-3), Cowboys (4-3), Lions (3-4), Redskins (3-4),  Cardinals (3-4), Bears (3-5)

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Falcons are the one team that stands out from this group of teams just "on the outside looking in"; considering that they're just a few months removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

But they barely squeaked by the Jets yesterday, and as mentioned above will be facing a Panthers team at their "house" next Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina in a game that could potentially have huge repercussions down the line for the entire NFC South Division.

Green Bay of course will likely be without Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the year; while the Lions continue to fade away recently after they had began the season at 3-1. Washington and Arizona will need the teams ahead of them to falter badly, if they even want a shot at the Playoffs at this point.

 

Who's just about done and finished already: Buccaneers (2-5), Giants (1-6), 49ers (0-8)

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Buccaneers are the most disappointing team here, given that they were expect to contend for the NFC South Division title this year. But they've lost 4 straight games in a row; and have been unable to score points on offense, can’t score points on special teams (their kicking game has been laughable) and have faltered on defense.

Tampa Bay’s lack of a pass rush is the primary reason for the team’s decline, however; and they logged zero sacks against Carolina yesterday and didn’t even manage a single quarterback hit against Cam Newton despite playing against a banged-up Panthers O-Line.

That doesn't bode well for them as they head to the Superdome this next coming Sunday, for a divisional match-up against the Saints......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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