New Orleans Saints: The biggest challenge of being the third seed

The New Orleans Saints are currently the third seed in the NFC and could finish 13-3 and not even get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The New Orleans Saints have had a fantastic season with everything that the team has had to go through. Various injuries to several key players, including Drew Brees, has not derailed the Saints and they enter Week 17 with the chance to go 13-3 on the season.

Unfortunately, the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers have also had great seasons and have the opportunity to go 13-3. The Packers have the Detroit Lions, so that should be a win, and the San Francisco 49ers have a tough matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints need both teams to lose to be the first seed in the NFC and the chances of that happening are slim. However, the Saints only need one of the two to lose to at least get a first-round bye, with the more likely being the 49ers losing to the Seahawks.

If both teams win, even if the Saints win, then the Saints are the third seed and will not get a first-round bye. If the Saints lose and the Seahawks win then the New Orleans would still be the second-seed as they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks.

Regardless, getting a first-round bye in the playoffs is a massive deal so the Saints still have a lot to play for in Week 17. In this case, it is an even bigger deal if the Saints get the third seed opposed to the fourth seed as the road to the Super Bowl gets much tougher.

As the second seed, the Saints would get the higher-seeded team that wins in the Wild Card round. Unless the Cowboys and Vikings both win, this would be one of the Packers, Seahawks or 49ers, all depending on how Week 17 shakes out and who gets the third seed.

The big thing here is home-field advantage. The Green Bay Packers, in particular, have not been great away from Lambeau this season. Two of the Packers’ three losses came on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, both in ugly games.

Their two-most impressive road wins this year, against the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings came with Patrick Mahomes and Dalvin Cook out of action.

If the Saints are the third seed they would be tasked with the Vikings in the Wild-Card round, who are not as good as the Saints but are as good as a sixth-seed could be in the playoffs and can absolutely beat the Saints on any given day.

I give the Saints a 75 percent chance of going through that challenge but then they would be tasked with Packers at Lambeau Field in January. As much as we all love Drew Brees, I do worry about how he will perform in January conditions at Lambeau Field. That is the biggest home-field advantage a team can have.

There is a decently realistic chance that the Saints could be the home team in the NFC Championship Game as the 49ers would be the one seed in this scenario and would play either the Seahawks or the Eagles.

If the Seahawks get past the Eagles, which they should, then they could beat the 49ers in the Divisional Round in the third matchup between the two teams.

It is that Divisional Round matchup against the Packers at Lambeau that is the most terrifying part of getting the third seed. It’s not the Vikings or even needing to play an extra game and it is not even the opponent, as chances are, based on the seeding, that they will wind up facing the Packers are some point in the playoffs.

It’s Lambeau Field. The New Orleans Saints certainly can win there, but the chances of them losing might just be greater.