This evening as Saints fans take a closer look around the National Football League’s NFC conference, the playoff picture is only slightly clearer on Thanksgiving Weekend then it was in the second week of September.
There are a few things in this conference that one can count on in recent years.
For example, every season there always seems to be one “surprise team” that comes out of nowhere; and this year (like clockwork) that team is the Dallas Cowboys — who at (10-1) have the NFL’s best record, are the 2016 version.
The Seattle Seahawks showed signs of vulnerability early, but they now appear to be growing stronger as the holidays approach.
The Atlanta Falcons started strong for a 2nd straight season and currently lead the NFC South, but are trying to avoid totally unraveling down the season’s second half “stretch run” (to be fair, that hasn’t completely happened yet but the trend looks to be continuing) as they did in 2015.
But — there have been some unexpected things happening as well.
One or two conference favorites will likely spend the season tripping over themselves on the way to the season’s finish line; as the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers (both in the Conference Championship game last year but with losing records this year) appear to have done this season thus far.
And last but not least: the San Francisco 49ers have become a complete “dumpster fire” at (1-9); which, any Saints fan from the NFC West days may take great pleasure in watching.
There are also a few guarantees that you can believe in with a degree of great confidence — among them being that the New Orleans Saints (4-6) will arguably be the League’s most entertaining team offensively as the season enters into the “stretch run”; and as a direct (or indirect) result: the conference’s Wild Card Playoff picture will be a jumbled heap by the end of December.
Coming into this weeks slate of games, 14 of the 16 teams in the NFC have achievable playoff possibilities, and 10 teams had records between 6-4 and 4-6.
The Saints sit currently as the 11th seed, at a record of 4-6; identical to this Sunday’s opponent, the Los Angeles Rams.
New Orleans has put themselves in a bit of an uphill battle, for sure, but they’re still mathematically alive and very much in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Obviously, the NFC’s four division champions will be automatically in the playoffs, which leaves basically 10 teams with realistic chances fighting for the 2 remaining wild card spots.
Let’s have a look at a few factors to watch over these final six weeks that will play a role in the Saints’ season-ending fate.
And we start with THIS one…..