The New Orleans Saints host the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 in a game that is going to have a lot of implications for playoff seeding.
The 10-2 New Orleans Saints head into the team’s most important game of the season in Week 14 as they host the 10-2 San Francisco 49ers.
We have been previewing this game as much as we physically can as it is going to have big implications on the playoff seeding in the NFC, in particular, who gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
As it currently stands, the New Orleans Saints are the first seed in the NFC. However, the Saints, Seattle Seahawks and 49ers all have 10-2 records; Seattle has the head-to-head tiebreaker for the division over the 49ers and the Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks.
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Winning this game would make it very hard to not be top seed in the NFC when it is all said and done. Losing this game complicates things, and could even lead to the team not getting a first-round bye in the worst-case scenario.
There is a lot on the line in this game and we needed to dedicate an entire article to it.
The implications of the New Orleans Saints winning:
If the New Orleans Saints win this game they will remain as the top-seed in the NFC. The win would also give the Saints the head-to-head tiebreaker over both the 49ers and Seahawks, so no matter who wins the NFC West, they would have to finish the year with a better record than the Saints.
With a relatively easy schedule remaining, the worst-possible finish in the Saints’ final three games is 2-1. That would mean that the Seahawks, assuming they win against the Los Angeles Rams this week, would have to win out in order to beat the Saints out.
The first two games of the final three are not too difficult as the Seahawks take on the Panthers and the Cardinals but the last game of the season is as they have to take on the 49ers once again. That is going to be a tough game that could be for the NFC West and the Saints will have the luxury of sitting back and watching.
Again, that is assuming the Saints lose a game in the final three, which might not even happen. The Saints host the Colts and finish the season on the road against the Titans and Panthers. The Colts and Titans are sneaky, however.
The 49ers would practically be eliminated from being the number one seed. They would essentially be two games behind the Saints with three games remaining. And while it mathematically is possible, the Saints are not going to blow that lead.
Even if the stars align and all three teams have the same record it won’t matter. The three-team tiebreaker rules won’t go in effect as first the NFC West would undergo a tiebreaker then that team would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker versus New Orleans.
The implications of the New Orleans Saints losing:
This is where it gets tricky for the Saints.
If the Saints lose and the Seahawks win then the Saints will have the third-best record but the second seed in the NFC because one of the teams would have to be a wildcard team.
In this situation, the Seahawks would still be the top seed in the NFC because of their head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers, which is great for the Saints as they have the tiebreaker over Seattle.
With a loss in this game, the Saints are going to have to win out. Moving to four losses on the year simply won’t cut it for the top seed unless both the 49ers and Seahawks finish with four losses and the Seahawks win the NFC West.
That is a possibility but the chances of the Seahawks finishing the year 2-2 and the 49ers finishing 1-2, especially when they have to play each other, is slim.
It should be talked about as well that the Saints could lose a first-round bye if they lose this game, although it is unlikely. If the Saints lose this game and win out they will finish with a 13-3 record and a 9-3 NFC record.
If the Green Bay Packers win out, they play the Redskins, Bears, Vikings and Lions (there is only one tough game in there), then they will also finish 13-3 with a 10-2 NFC record.
With no head-to-head meetings, the Green Bay Packers would get the tiebreaker over the Saints and be the second seed in the NFC.
The Vikings could even win out, win the head-to-head tiebreaker over Green Bay and challenge the Saints for the second seed if the Saints finish the season 2-2. From there, it would depend on who the Saints lost to.
If they lost to the Colts or Titans then they would have the same NFC record and the tiebreaker would resort to the record in similar games. The Saints and Vikings have five similar games and in this situation, the Vikings would be 4-1 and the Saints would be 4-1. From there it gets complicated and goes into the strength of victory, the strength of schedule, etc.
So, how do the Saints earn the first seed with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers? They could hope that the 49ers and Seahawks lose out, but in this situation, we will assume that the 49ers will be 13-2 heading into Week 17.
The team would have to hope for the Seahawks to lose just one game against the Rams, Cardinals and Panthers to also move to three losses. Anything more than that is too much. They then would have to beat the 49ers in the last game of the season.
That would give the Seahawks the division at 13-3 as they would have won both head-to-head matchups but would then give the 13-3 Saints the first seed as they have the head-to-head tiebreaker.