This is the last NFL week of the season before Christmas and the New Orleans Saints should be asking for particular outcomes this weekend.
The New Orleans Saints are embroiled in a thick NFC race for the top-two seeds in the conference that can play out in a myriad of ways and could have the Saints as high as the first seed in the conference and as low as the third seed in the conference.
Currently, the Seattle Seahawks are the top-ranked seed in the conference while the Green Bay Packers are second and the Saints are third. The San Francisco 49ers are also in the mix a wild-card team. All four teams are 11-3.
The only team that the Saints have a tiebreaker over is the Seattle Seahawks, as the team has won the head-to-head matchup over Seattle. However, if the Seahawks and Saints are tied with the Packers at the end of the year, that head-to-head tiebreaker would be negated in a three-team tie.
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It would then go to conference record, which is where the problem lies for the Saints. Both the Seahawks and the Packers have a better conference record than the Saints, so if both teams win out, the Saints will get locked out of a top-two seed either way.
The 49ers also have a better conference record and have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints if it is a two-team tie atop the NFC. This means that if the Packers win out and both the Seahawks and 49ers win this week then the Saints will essentially get guaranteed the third seed.
The only other way would be if the 49ers and Seahawks tied in Week 17, which is unlikely.
So when we are envisioning our perfect Week 16 it consists of all three of those teams losing. The 49ers need to lose to the Rams on Saturday, the Seahawks to the Cardinals on Sunday and the Packers to the Vikings on Monday.
However, you probably knew that and the chances of all three losing are slim. Thus, we decided to prioritize the three losses, starting with…
1. Green Bay Packers
Saint fans should be rooting heavily against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. The reason being that the Packers have a rollover game in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions, so this might be their only shot of losing.
Unless both teams lose in the NFC West, the Packers winning this week would significantly hurt the Saints’ chances of getting a first-round bye. The Packers winning pretty much guarantees that they will finish ahead of the Saints and will force that three-way tie atop the NFC, unless we want to rely on the Lions.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The second most important team that the New Orleans Saints need to lose this week is the San Francisco 49ers. Partly because the team has the tiebreaker over the Saints but also because personally, I think the 49ers are going to get the best of the Seahawks in Week 17.
If the 49ers lose this week and then win next week it will create a 12-4 tie at the top of the NFC West. If we assume the Saints win out, that will give them the edge regardless of who comes out of the division.
The reason why the 49ers are ranked lower than the Packers, despite having the head-to-head tiebreaker, is the fact that with the Week 17 matchup, the Saints know that one of the NFC West teams has to lose at least one more game.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Not only are the Seahawks the least important team that needs to lose (albeit still very important), they have the easiest game of the week against the Arizona Cardinals, so we do not want to buy in too much on the idea of them losing.
If they lose then great and if the 49ers lose then even better, it will guarantee that the Saints will finish with the top seed in the NFC if they win their last two games.
However, with our estimations that Seattle will lose in Week 17, it ultimately won’t matter if they win or lose in this game as they will be the wild-card tea regardless.
And let’s not forget: this is all assuming that the New Orleans Saints win out. If the Saints lose this week to the Tennessee Titans then the chances of them getting a first-round bye will be slim, unless two of the three teams lose this week as well.