Astonishingly, despite their current 6-9 record, the New Orleans Saints still have a path to the playoffs. The 2022 NFC South is one of the worst divisions in recent memory, and winning the division will give New Orleans to the right to host a playoff game in front of one of the most passionate fanbases in sports. However, if they want to make the playoffs, they’re going to need some help.
How the New Orleans Saints Can Make the Playoffs
Step 1: Win Out
It should go without saying that six wins is not going to be enough to take home the division crown. The Saints currently sit one game behind the 7-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and are tied with the 6-9 Carolina Panthers. Technically, they’ll need to usurp both teams in the standings, and the only way to do that is by winning every game on their schedule.
Unfortunately, winning out could be a problem. The Saints face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, and they’re one of the best teams in the league. Entering at 13-2, Philadelphia has one of the best rosters in the NFL and a top-five coaching staff leading the way. While Jalen Hurts might not play, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew might just be the best second-string passer in football. The former Jaguar proved that he can keep the offense afloat during last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and he should be able to do the same against New Orleans.
If the Saints somehow defeat the Eagles, they could be playing for the division crown in Week 18. The season finale takes place against the Carolina Panthers, and the game will be played in New Orleans. The Saints lost the first matchup back in Week 3, but that was with Jameis Winston under center. Andy Dalton has been far more effective, and New Orleans should stand a better shot this time around.
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Step 2: Root Against Tampa Bay
That last-second comeback in Week 13 could end up costing the Saints a shot at the playoffs. The Buccaneers currently have a one-game lead on New Orleans and, thanks to their head-to-head record, own the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record. So, for all intents and purposes, the Buccaneers have a two-game lead on the Saints. If Tampa Bay wins a single one of their next two games, the Saints will not make the postseason.
Fortunately, the Buccaneers are not a good team. Coached at a high school level, Tampa Bay has yet to play up to its talent, and usually spends the first 55 minutes doing the dumbest things possible before asking Tom Brady to save the day in the final five minutes. So far, that strategy has worked seven times and failed eight. The Buccaneers face off in Week 17 against a Carolina Panthers team that is playing some of its best football. The team is 3-1 since Sam Darnold took over, and quite frankly, they look like the more complete team right now. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Panthers pull off the upset and take down Tampa Bay.
While the Buccaneers could easily lose in Week 17, it’s hard to envision a world where they don’t win their season finale. Tampa Bay ends their season against Desmond Ridder’s Atlanta Falcons, and that is a very winnable matchup. Ridder has not played well since taking over, and it’s highly unlikely Atlanta’s upstart running game can single-handedly take down the Buccaneers. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the Saints need to keep playing their best if they want any chance of postseason play.