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UPDATED SAINTS / NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE: Saints Still #4 Seed With 3 Games to Go

Despite their heart-breaking and perhaps controversial loss at Atlanta this past Thursday Night, this morning the New Orleans Saints still find themselves as the #4 seed in the NFC Playoff picture, with 3 games still remaining on the 2017 NFL regular season schedule.

New Orleans was also the #4 seed last week, and remained so as two of the other teams ahead of them that they've lost to already this season — the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams — both lost their games yesterday as well.

If the season were to end today: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Vikings would be the two teams who'd receive the very-highly-sought-after and prized 1st Round 'Byes', for the opening week of the Playoffs in the first weekend of January.

Meanwhile as the #4 seed, the Saints would host a Wild Card game at the Superdome against their NFC South division arch-rivals, the #5 seed Carolina Panthers.

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



No. 1 seed — Eagles (11-2): Clinched NFC East Title

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Philadelphia earned an impressive win on the road in Los Angeles against the Rams, and is now back on top for home-field advantage by a full game thanks to Minnesota's loss at Carolina.

The Eagles also clinched the NFC East Division yesterday, as the Cowboys can no longer catch them. 

Unfortunately for Philly, the win was a costly one; as QB Carson Wentz might be done for the remainder of the season after sustaining a possible torn ACL in his right knee.

Can back-up QB Nick Foles lead them to the "Promised Land"? We're all about to find out soon enough.

Remaining games: at NYG, vs. OAK, vs. DAL


No. 2 seed — Vikings (10-3): 1st place, NFC North

Photo courtesy of The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Minnesota's 8-game winning streak came to an end yesterday, and it was a costly loss to the Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina since it tossed them out of the top spot in the NFC.

The Vikings will likely remain at the #2 seed no matter what, since they've already beaten both the #3 seed Rams and #4 seed Saints head-to-head.

They can also clinch the NFC North Division title, with a win over Cincinnati or losses by the Packers and Lions.

Remaining games: vs. CIN, at GB, vs. CHI


No. 3 seed — Rams (9-4): 1st place, NFC West

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times

The Rams' loss at home to the Eagles was tough pill to swallow, but they're still the #3 seed for now.

However, the Rams have a lot more than Playoff seeding to worry about, since they travel to Seattle this week to face an ANGRY Seattle team (more on that in a minute) for the NFC West Division title on the line.

Seattle has already beaten the Rams in L.A. back in early October, and so Los Angeles will have to win on the road at Seattle to both earn the division championship and avoid dropping down in the conference seeding.

Remaining games: at SEA, at TEN, vs. SF


No. 4 seed — Saints (9-4): 1st place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

If you're reading this as a Saints fan, then obviously it's been well-documented that New Orleans lost a heart-breaker in Atlanta on Thursday Night Football but yet still almost won in spite of being penalized 11 times and losing SIX (yes, 6 of them) starters to injuries during the game.

The Saints now will play at home in back-to-back weeks, first against the (5-8) Jets; who just lost starting QB Josh McCown to a broken left hand yesterday, and then the "rematch" with the Falcons the following week in what promises to be one of the most highly-anticipated games in the NFL this entire season.

The Saints own the tie-breaker over Carolina since they've swept the Panthers, so if both teams manage to "win out" and each finish at (12-4), the Saints will still win the NFC South Division title.

And it's important to note: the Saints will more than likely HAVE TO win at least 2 of these 3 games, just to be sure that they actually even make the Playoffs.

Remaining games: vs. NYJ, vs. ATL, at TB


No. 5 seed — Panthers (9-4): 2nd place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Carolina's HUGE win over Minnesota at home yesterday allowed them to jump ahead of (and subsequently knock out) Seattle from the #5 spot, thanks to the Seahawks' bitter loss (again, more on that in a minute) to the Jaguars. 

The good news for Carolina is that now they get to play 2 more winnable games at home in back-to-back weeks, against Green Bay and Tampa Bay.

And depending on what happens in the Saints-Falcons "rematch" in 2 weeks from now at the Superdome, the Panthers could potentially still have a "showdown" against Atlanta for the NFC South division title in the regular season's final weekend.

Remaining games: vs. GB, vs. TB, at ATL


No. 6 seed — Falcons (8-5), 3rd Place NFC South

(AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

Say whatever you want about Atlanta, but they have refused to quit when it's seemed that the rest of the League was ready to see them get taken out of the NFC Playoff race altogether, after their Super Bowl run from last season.

The Falcons moved back into the #6 seed and final Playoff spot with its win over the Saints, coupled with Seattle's loss yesterday at Jacksonville; and with the "rematch" looming against New Orleans in 2 weeks at the Superdome, will first have to be sure to not overlook the Buccaneers on Monday Night.

And as mentioned above: the Falcons will end their season on New Year's Eve (December 31st) at home against the Panthers, in a game that certainly will have Playoff implications and could even determine who wins the NFC South.

Remaining games: at TB, at NO, vs. CAR


Who's right behind: Seahawks (8-5), Lions (7-6), Packers (7-6), Cowboys (7-6)

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times

Seattle's loss yesterday in Jacksonville, Florida will be one of the NFL's most talked about endings to a game for a very long time, as Seahawks defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson attempted to climb into the stands after a Jacksonville fan threw a drink at him as he was leaving the field in Sunday’s 30-24 loss to the Jaguars.

That happened right after the closing minute of the game, when Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson threw a punch at Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette and Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett — who instigated the scuffle by colliding into the Jaguars line as quarterback Blake Bortles knelt to run out the clock — each received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. 

Jefferson was ejected a play later.

As a result, the Seahawks have fallen out of the #6 seed and final Wild Card spot; and instead will now shift their focus to getting into the Playoffs by winning the NFC West division title, when it tries to sweep the Rams this coming Sunday in Seattle. 

Detroit, Green Bay and Dallas all won yesterday as well, to keep each one of their teams' slim Playoff hopes alive.


Who's still barely alive (and hanging on for dear life): Cardinals (6-7)

Photo courtesy of The Arizona Republic

The Cardinals won at home yesterday in suburban Phoenix, Arizona with a mild upset over AFC foe Tennessee, to stay just barely alive (but still breathing and on "life support") in the NFC. 

Unfortunately for them, they need to win out AND have a handful of other teams lose out, which has about as much chance of happening as you winning the Powerball lottery drawing every weekend for a month straight.


Who's already been ELIMINATED: Redskins (5-8), Buccaneers (4-9), Bears (4-9), 49ers (3-10), Giants (2-11) 

Photo courtesy of The Detroit Free-Press

Tampa Bay was the latest team to be officially eliminated from Playoff contention in the NFC, with their loss to Detroit. The Washington Redskins then joined them not long afterwards when they got destroyed by the Chargers.

However, be sure to give credit to both Chicago and San Francisco — who both keep playing well to finish out the season strong.

And then of course there's the New York Giants, who at this point are just simply praying for the season to be finally over with..........


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer 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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