The New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers both have a lot of playoff implications in Week 14 that could sway the fate of either team.
The New Orleans Saints‘ Week 14 showdown against the San Francisco 49ers is much more than the one-seeded team playing the five-seeded team — it is a game that is going to have a huge impact on the overall playoff seeding in the NFC and could lead to some choppy waters for the losing team.
The Saints and 49ers are both 10-2 alongside the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have the current head-to-head tiebreaker in the NFC West and the Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks for their win in Week 3.
We have already broken down the tiebreaker situation and how the outcome of the game will affect the immediate standings in the NFC. What we have not broken down is the absolute best-case scenario for the Saints in this game and beyond and the potential worst-case scenario.
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The best-case scenario for the New Orleans Saints:
The obvious answer for the best-case scenario is the Saints winning this game, winning out the rest of the season and then entering the playoffs as the first seed in the NFC. Obviously, that would be the absolute best-case scenario.
But in terms of making things easier in the future this week, the absolute best-case scenario in Week 14 would not just be a win over the 49ers, but a Rams win over the Seahawks. This would give the Saints a one-game lead over both NFC teams, which essentially turns into a two-game lead with the tiebreaker.
It is going to be really hard for a Saints team that is this good to give up a two-game lead with three games to go. This gives the Saints the comfort of knowing that if they do drop an ugly game it will be okay, or that they can rest the starters in Week 17 if they win in Week 15 and 16.
It expands past that as well, as the Saints obviously want to have a good playoff matchup, not a playoff matchup against either the Seahawks or 49ers, which is a possibility .
The best-case scenario in the division round would be the sixth-seeded NFC team beating the third-seeded NFC team to play the Saints (well, duh!)
This could be the Vikings, the Rams, the Bears or heck, it could even be the Packers. The winner of the NFC North is going to be the third seed so we need whoever that is, to get the victory.
Because if not then the Saints are going to get screwed over and have to play the better team in the Divisional Round. That is because the fifth seed is most likely going to be either the Seahawks or the 49ers and they will take on whoever wins the dumpster fire that is the NFC East.
Theoretically, we could say that the best-case scenario would be the Eagles winning the NFC East and surprising the 49ers or the Seahawks in the playoffs. If that were to happen, and the third seed was to win, then the Saints would get that game.
However, it is more likely that the 49ers or Seahawks will easily win that game and since they are the fifth seed they would be forced to play the one seed. If the six seed doesn’t win, the winner of the NFC West will get the winner of the NFC North and the Saints will get stuck with the runner-up in the NFC West with the possibility of having to play both of them.
The worst-case scenario for the New Orleans Saints:
Again, the obvious answer here is that the Saints would lose this game and lose out, but again, we do not think that is realistic with this team being as talented as they are.
The realistic worst-case scenario for the Saints if they lose this game would be losing the first-round bye in the playoffs. A loss would put them at 10-3 on the season, which would be tied with the Green Bay Packers, assuming they beat the Washington Redskins this Sunday.
This would move the Saints to 8-3 in the NFC with the Packers being 8-2 in the NFC, giving them the advantage for the first-round bye.
If the Saints lost this game and won out alongside the Packers then they still would not get the first-round bye. It would go to the Packers and the Saints would be forced to play the sixth-seeded team, which ironically, is the best-case scenario for the divisional round.
It is not a good scenario for the Wild Card round. As the third seed, if the Saints won they would automatically play the second seed, which would be the Green Bay Packers, at Lambeau Field, in January.
And if they got past that challenge and played the first seed in the NFC they would either have to play in San Francisco or in Seattle, which are not easy places to win in January.
As you can see, this game is important as it very well will decide how easy or hard the New Orleans Saints’ path to the Super Bowl will be.