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An Early Look at Possible Opponents for the Saints in the Divisional Playoffs

The New Orleans Saints are now (13-2) with only one Regular Season remaining on their 2018 schedule next Sunday at home against the visiting Carolina Panthers; in a game in which the Black and Gold is expected to rest most of (if not all) their starting players in advance of next month’s NFL Playoffs, which begin in less than 2 weeks from now on the weekend of January 6th and the 7th.

But since the Saints have clinched the #1 overall Playoff seed in the NFC and have home-field advantage throughout the entire NFL Playoffs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, they will have the first week (known as the Wild Card Round) of the post-season off  with a Bye Week, and won’t actually play again until the Divisional Round of the Playoffs on the weekend of January 12th and the 13th — when they will host the lowest-seeded winner of the Wild Card Round.

As of this very moment, that could end up being any one four different teams: the #4 seed and NFC East Division Champions the (9-6) Dallas Cowboys, the #5 seed and top Wild Card team, Seattle Seahawks, the #6 seed and the other Wild Card team (as of now), the (8-6-1) Minnesota Vikings; or if Minnesota loses their final game next week, the team that could still get the last spot: the defending Super Bowl champions from last year, the (8-7) Philadelphia Eagles.

The Saints would not face either the #2 seed Los Angeles Rams or the #3 seed Chicago Bears until the NFC Championship Game.

So with that in mind, this morning we’re taking a very quick look at how each team has gotten to this point; and how they have already fared against the Saints either this season or in their last meeting against them.

And we’ll begin first with every Saints fan’s favorite (just kidding)…..

 

#4 SEED (NFC East Division Champions) DALLAS COWBOYS 

Photo courtesy of The Dallas Morning News

The (9-6) Cowboys wrapped up the NFC East Division title yesterday when they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 to secure their third playoff berth in the past five years.

As noted by ESPN Cowboys beat writer Todd Archer: It has been quite a turnaround for Dallas, for whom a playoff spot seemed far from possible after their November 5th loss to the Tennessee Titans left them with a (3-5) record — but they have since won six of seven games to make the postseason, including their 13-10 upset victory over the Saints back in Week #13,

However as Archer also observes: the Cowboys have won just three playoff games since winning Super Bowl XXX (over 30 years ago) and just one with Jason Garrett as head coach (in 2014). Additionally, the Cowboys have not made it to a Super Bowl — or played in an NFC Championship Game — since 1995. 

“We’re playing the kind of football where you can win games in the postseason,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said to Archer after yesterday’s game, But if Jerry hopes to beat the Saints in the Divisional Round, they;ll first have to win their opening game at home in the Wild Card round; which as of right now appears it will be against the current #5 seed Seattle Seahawks. Speaking of which…..

 

#5 SEED (Top-Seeded Wild Card team) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times

The (9-6) Seahawks are headed back to the playoffs after last night’s 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at CenturyLink Field. As noted by ESPN Seahawks beat writer Brady Henderson: that clinched a wild-card berth for Seattle, which is sitting in the NFC’s fifth spot and can lock that up with a win over the Arizona Cardinals in next Sunday’s regular-season finale.

It will be the Seahawks’ 7th playoff appearance in Pete Carroll’s 9 seasons in Seattle. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only the New England Patriots have more in that span, with nine. Henderson adds that the Seahawks victory Sunday capped another comeback from an (0-2) start.

Since the NFL expanded its playoff format to 12 participants in 1990, only 28 teams through 2017 had reached the postseason after starting (0-2). One of those teams was the 2015 Seahawks — and now this year’s 2018 squad joins them on that same list,

Henderson also makes the observation that the Seahawks’ win last night over the Chiefs was arguably their most impressive of the season. As of this moment, it appears they will be headed to the “Big D” to face the Cowboys in a #4 seed vs, #5 seed opening Wild Card Round match-up at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

If the Seahawks were to win that game, then they’d likely face the Saints in the Divisional Round at the Superdome; where the Saints last beat Seattle in their most recent meeting: a 25-20 New Orleans victory back in Week #8 of the 2016 NFL season

 

#6 SEED (Lower-Seeded Wild Card team) MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The (8-6-1) Vikings went into yesterday needing to beat Detroit and have the Philadelphia Eagles lose to clinch a spot in the postseason. But the Eagles — who as of this moment are absolutely “red-hot” — defeated the Houston Texans by a score of 32-30; which means Minnesota’s playoff dreams will come down to the final game of the regular season.

With a win over the current #3 seed the Chicago Bears at home next week, the Vikings are in. They could also make the playoffs with a loss to Chicago, but would need the Eagles to lose to or tie in their final Regular Season game against the Washington Redskins.

As noted by ESPN NFL writer Courtney Cronin: although the Vikings will be favored to win as 6.5-point favorites over the Bears, the only way for Minnesota to actually move up and grab the #5 seed that currently belongs to Seattle is by beating Chicago and having Seattle lose to Arizona. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Vikings would play the Bears in back-to-back weeks with a trip to Soldier Field slated for the Wild Card weekend.

If Minnesota was lucky enough to beat the Bears (who would be HEAVILY favored at home in Chicago), then their next game would be in the Divisional Round against the Saints — who beat them handily at Minneapolis by a score of 30-20 back in Week #8 of this season,

 

Possible #6 SEED (IF They Make the Playoffs) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

As most Saints fans are well aware: the Saints DESTROYED the Eagles by a score of 48-7 at the Superdome back in Week #11; but since that time, Philadelphia has staged a late-season rally in a last-ditch effort to successfully defend their Super Bowl title from last year,

As noted by NBC Sports Philadephia’s designated Eagles beat writer Josh Ellis: the Eagles need to beat Washington on the road next week and the Vikings need to lose at home in Minneapolis against the Bears.

However, the Bears still have an outside chance at a 1st-round bye (if the Rams lose at San Francisco) and will come into Week #17 looking for a win, which could actually help the Eagles out. In an earlier meeting this season in Chicago, the Bears defeated the Vikings, 25-20.

Ellis notes that this season hasn’t gone as well as the Eagles had hoped, but at the end of the day, they’ll now still have a chance to make the Playoffs in the final game of the season — although they’ll need a little help if they hope to pull it off…..

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Saints News Network Featured Columnist (and Big Easy Magazine's Saints writer) 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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