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UPDATED NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE: Saints Keep Rolling Along as Rams Keep Slim Lead for Homefield Advantage

The New Orleans Saints have now won 8 straight games in a row, and as a result: they firmly remain near the top of the current NFC Playoff seedings, as the National Football League now enters into the very heart of the 2nd half of its 2018 regular season schedule.

The Saints remain as the #2 seed in the NFC; after their 51-14 destruction over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday at Paul Brown Stadium in south central Ohio.

With that in mind, here's the VERY LATEST update and breakdown of the current NFC Playoff picture as things stand right now, as New Orleans and the rest of the NFL head into Week #11 (but only the 10th game for the Saints, who have already had their Bye Week) of the 2018 NFL schedule....

 

NFC

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

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Rams hung on for "dear life" in their win over Seattle yesterday, and by virtue of their one extra win (the Rams still haven't had their Bye Week as of yet), they remain just slightly ahead as the No. 1 seed over the Saints, at least if the playoffs began today.

But L.A. still has a game against the Kansas City Chiefs next week in Mexico City; in a game that will have huge Playoff ramifications League-wide. Despite all of their recent success, the Rams seemingly have struggled in recent weeks; and their defense filled with NFL "all stars" hasn't been all that stellar lately.

Bottom line: the Rams are still pretty damn good, but they've proven to be vulnerable at times. However, L.A.'s one saving grace could end up being an easier 2nd half season schedule remaining than the Saints have (which is brutally tough).

 

No. 2 seed — Saints (8-1): 1st place, NFC South

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Don't look now, but for weeks after practically being IGNORED by the National Media covering the NFL, the Saints are finally starting to get the respect that they deserve; showing everyone in the League that's actually paying attention that New Orleans very suddenly but yet quietly has become the most complete (and most dangerous) team in the NFL

The Saints destroyed a short-handed and over-matched Bengals squad by a score of 51-14 at Cincinnati yesterday; and with the entire NFC South losing their games this past week, the Black and Gold now have a two-game lead over the entire division title but still remained a half-game behind the Rams for top seed in the NFC (although they own the tie-breaker after beating the Rams a week ago).

Next up for New Orleans: back-to-back home games against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, followed by the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving Night.

No. 3 seed — Bears (6-3): 1st place, NFC North

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Tribune

The Bears are currently experiencing a "break out" season under 1st year head coach Matt Nagy, as their 2nd year QB Mitchell Trubisky continues to put up huge numbers despite the many critics of Chicago's top pick out of the University of North Carolina in last year's 2017 NFL Draft.

As of this moment, it appears that the Bears are the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC North Division title; after they essentially "coasted" to a victory over the Detroit Lions at home yesterday. But the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers are also in that division, and both undoubtedly will not concede anything  to Chicago.

We'll actually get to see that play out in real time next weekend, when the Bears host Minnesota at home in Soldier Field on NBC Sunday Night Football.

 

No. 4 seed — Redskins (6-3): 1st place, NFC East

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins — who not many analysts gave a chance to be any "good" thus season — went down to Tampa and beat the Buccaneers IN SPITE of yielding nearly 500 yards, but yet were able to limit them to three points and escape with the win.

Washington has gotten by on "smoke and mirrors" so far, but they clearly are resilient and continue to win games regardless of their notable shortcomings, particularly on offense. However, the the Redskins have one of the easier schedules remaining within the NFC, which could help their positioning once the season is over.

Up next for Washington: a game at home at Fed Ex Field against a red-hot Houston Texans team that's won 6 straight games themselves, and will be well-rested and prepared coming off a Bye Week.

 

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

Photo courtesy of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Panthers got whipped thoroughly at Pittsburgh last Thursday Night, but by no means are their Playoff chances in jeopardy; especially since they'll be playing the Saints twice in a 3-week span at the end of the regular season.

However: the Panthers were clearly exposed in their loss to the Steelers; and Pittsburgh gave everyone the so-called "blue print" on how to beat Carolina, which is to "rattle" Cam Newton with a ton of blitzes and pressure when they're on offense, and go after their weak secondary when their defense is on the field.

The Panthers will travel to face the (3-6) Detroit Lions next however, in a game where Carolina can redeem itself, and remain within "striking distance" of the unstoppable Saints.

 

No. 6 seed — Vikings (5-3-1): 2nd place, NFC North

The Vikings were on their Bye Week yesterday, but still are precariously clinging to the 6th and final Playoff seed in the conference.

As mentioned above: they will face the division-leading Chicago Bears next weekend at Soldier Field, to see which of the two teams can emerge as the favorite to win the highly-competitive NFC North Division.

 

Who's right behind: Packers (4-4-1), Falcons (4-5), Seahawks (4-5), Cowboys (4-5), Eagles (4-5), Buccaneers (3-6), Lions (3-6)

Photo courtesy of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer

The Green Bay Packers appear to be the team that's "on the outside looking in" at the moment, but they were able to hang on for the win yesterday against the Miami Dolphins despite having allowed the Fins to hang around for a majority of the contest. It was the Packers defense that rose to the occasion yesterday, intercepting Dolphins QB Brock Osweiler in the game's final minutes to secure a much-needed victory.

The other team in this grouping that no doubt Saints fans aren't offended at seeing here is their bitter and hated arch-rivals the Atlanta Falcons, who stunningly were beat yesterday at Cleveland against the Browns; putting their Playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. Yesterday's loss was representative  of the type of season it's been for them; as they continued to struggle again in the red zone on offense and remain "back on their heels" defensively, due to a handful of injuries.

 

Who's just about done and finished already: Cardinals (2-7), 49ers (2-7), Giants (1-7)

Photo courtesy of The San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco 49ers play the New York Giants later tonight on ESPN Monday Night Football in nearby Santa Clara just outside of the Bay Area, in a game in which the losing team can potentially earn the #1 overall pick in next year's 2019 NFL Draft....

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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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