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UPDATED PLAYOFF PICTURE: Saints Now Among The NFL’s Very Best Teams

The New Orleans Saints have won 7 straight games in a row, and as a result now have to be considered one of the NFL's very best teams as the League's 10th week of the 2017 regular season has concluded.

New Orleans (7-2) remained near the very top of the National Football Conference playoff race, with regard to the current seeding as the team has now entered "head first" into the 2nd half of their 2017 season schedule.

The Saints are now the #3 seed in the NFC; after their dominant 47-10 win over AFC East opponent the Buffalo Bills yesterday at New Era Field in upstate New York.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Germano, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

New Orleans — who was the #2 seed last week — was surpassed in the overall conference standings by the Minnesota Vikings, who defeated the Washington Redskins 38-30 on the road at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Maryland.

The Saints have an identical (5-1) conference record as the Vikings do; but are now just slightly behind (7-2) Minnesota due to a tie-breaker (Minnesota defeated New Orleans head-to-head back in Week #1).

Both the Vikings and the Saints remain a game behind the #1 seed Philadelphia Eagles; who are (8-1) overall but are undefeated (6-0) in the NFC. The Eagles were off yesterday, on a Bye Week.

If the season were to end today: both the Eagles and the Vikings, would have 1st Round byes. 

Meanwhile as the #3 seed, the Saints would host a Wild Card game at the Superdome against the Seattle Seahawks.

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 #11 of the NFL 2017 regular season schedule, for your New Orleans Saints......

 

NFC

No. 1 seed — Eagles (8-1): 1st place, NFC East

Photo courtesy of The Denver Post

The conference's top team, Philadelphia enjoyed a week off and were on a Bye Week yesterday, but saw ALL 3 of the other NFC division leaders move within a game of its conference lead. 

Next week, the Eagles dive head-long into the "meat" (hey, it's Philly after all) of their remaining schedule, starting with their hated NFC East division rivals the Dallas Cowboys.

The Eagles now have opened up a 3-game lead on the Cowboys, and can essentially CLINCH their division already with 6 games still left to play.

Barring a total collapse, the Eagles are on "cruise control" at this point; and the only thing they're fighting for now is the #1 seed in the Playoffs.

 

No. 2 seed — Vikings (7-2): 1st place, NFC North

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

After a week off last week, Minnesota went into Washington yesterday and won its 5th game in a row; while also remaining 2 games ahead of both Detroit and Green Bay in the NFC North Division.

The Vikings continue to roll along in spite of missing both their starting QB (Sam Bradford) and #1 RB (Dalvin Cook), but have been able to survive thanks to their stout defense, which most consider to be among the NFL's best.

But yesterday it was their offense and back-up QB Case Keenum that got the job done. Keenum torched the Redksins in FedEx Field for 304 yards and four touchdowns. In doing so, he became the first quarterback to surpass the 300-yard mark against Washington's defense all season.

 

No. 3 seed — Saints (7-2): 1st place, NFC South

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

If you would have told someone before the game yesterday in Buffalo, New York that New Orleans would have beaten another Playoff contender by nearly 40 points (30 points in the 2nd half alone) in that team's own home stadium with Drew Brees not throwing a SINGLE TD pass, they would have thought you were completely insane.

But that's exactly what happened as the Saints rushed for over 300 yards and 6 — count them: SIX — rushing TD's on the day. The 6 rushing TD's in a single game set a Saints franchise record in the process.

The Saints didn't have to punt once in the entire game; and at one point ran the ball for 24 consecutive plays in the 3rd and 4th quarter before they finally had to pass again. The Saints were the first NFL team to have 6 rushing TD's and 0 punts in a game since the 1941 Bears, which was 76 years ago.

It was a dominant performance that has now vaulted the Saints into the conversation as to who now as of this very moment, are the best teams in the entire League right now.

After yesterday's "Buffalo beat down" on the road and in one of the NFL's most hostile venues for visiting teams no less, you'd have to put New Orleans at the very top.

 

No. 4 seed — Rams (7-2): 1st place, NFC West

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The debate is on right now between fans of the Saints and fans of the Rams right now, as to which of the 2 teams are THE HOTTEST in the entire NFL. Both teams have identical record and lead their respective divisions; and both teams are currently on 7 game-winning streaks.

The argument likely won't be settled until Thanksgiving Weekend (Sunday, November 26th); when the Saints travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams in a HUGE showdown that some believe will be the best match-up in the League this year.

But we'll find out a lot more about where the Rams are at, even after they play the Saints; when they host Philadelphia 2 weeks later (December 10th) in a game that could determine who the 2 top seeds in the NFC will eventually be.

 

No. 5 seed — Panthers (7-3): 2nd place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Panthers (7-3) whipped the Miami Dolphins by a score of 45-21 in Charlotte, North Carolina on ESPN's Monday Night Football last night, and remain just one half of a game behind the Saints in the NFC South division.

The December 3rd game in 3 more weeks from now at the Superdome vs. the Saints is looming large now for both teams; as the outcome of that game could have a direct bearing on whichever team becomes the eventual winner of the NFC South Division title.

As it is, the Panthers still have another game left with Atlanta on New Year's Eve, in yet another game that could have Playoff implications for the rest of the teams within the NFC playoff race.

 

No. 6 seed — Seahawks (6-3): 2nd place, NFC West

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After being completely left out of the Playoff mix just a week ago, the Seahawks jumped back into it this past Thursday Night in a win over Arizona, but it didn't come without consequences.

Seattle lost starting CB Richard Sherman for the season to a torn achilles injury during the 3rd quarter of Seattle’s 22-16 win over the Cardinals; which raised anger among Seahawks fans after NBC decided to show Sherman mouthing “I tore my achilles” to his teammates on the sidelines.

If there's anything that the Seahawks should feel good about, it's the fact that they already beat the Rams on the road earlier, and that could work to their advantage when the two teams meet again in Seattle on December 17th.

 

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

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution

The Falcons got a big win yesterday over the Cowboys, and now have "head-to-head" NFC victories over Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay, which can play a big part in any type of tie-breaker procedures at the end of the season.

On top of that: they still face the Panthers again AND the Saints twice — meaning that they could get right back into the mix fairly quick, with a few more keys wins like yesterday's.

 

Who's just about done and out of it: 49ers (1-9), Giants (1-8), Buccaneers (3-6), Bears (3-6)

Photo courtesy of The New York Times

The 49ers finally won their first game yesterday, leaving the Browns (0-9) over in the AFC as the NFL's last winless team. Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl around Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, whose firing could be imminent.

The Buccanners and the Bears are only playing for pride at this point, although Chicago is "rebuilding" —  while the Bucs have just been plain bad at times.............

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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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