Saints First-Round Bye Scenarios in Week 15

An in-depth breakdown of the Saints road to clinching the NFC's #1 seed in the NFL playoffs.
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Saints News Network's Intern, Joseph McGuan, examines the New Orleans Saints first-round bye scenarios in Week 15.

Road to #1 Seed

For the third consecutive season, the New Orleans Saints are contending for the NFC’s #1 seed. This year only one team per conference will earn a first-round bye. During the offseason, NFL owners voted to add an extra wildcard berth and expanded playoff qualifications from 6 to 7 clubs per conference. 

Accordingly, seven teams total, four division winners, and three wildcard teams in the NFC and AFC will be playing in the 2021 NFL Playoffs. So if New Orleans won the NFC South but did not win the NFC's #1 seed, they will be playing in the first-round on wildcard weekend. 

Earning the #1 seed is a precious commodity this season. Last night, the Green Bay Packers (11-3) defeated the Carolina Panthers (4-10) to solidify their hold onto the NFC's top seeding. They own the NFC tiebreaker after beating the Saints 38-10 in Week 3.  

Playoff Picture

Fans of any team that are “in the hunt” want to know how their team can clinch a playoff berth, division title, or the #1 overall seed. In the case of the Who Dat Nation, the Saints are a win or a Buccaneers loss away from clinching their fourth straight NFC South crown but need some help to clinch a first-round bye.

For New Orleans to conclude the regular season atop the NFC one of the following scenarios must happen.

  1. New Orleans wins out & Green Bay loses 1 of 3 final regular-season games.
  2. New Orleans loses 1 of the final 3 & Green Bay loses 1 of the final 3 & Los Angeles/Seattle wins out.

In the final three weeks of the NFL regular season, the Saints have matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1), Minnesota Vikings (6-7), and the Carolina Panthers (4-10). The Green Bay Packers (11-3) defeated the Carolina Panthers (4-10) by the score of 24-16 on Saturday night and will face the Tennessee Titans (9-4) and the Chicago Bears (6-7) in the coming weeks.

If the Saints fail to win out, the best scenario for them to clinch the NFC’s #1 seed would be to end the season in a 3-way or 4-way tie. In this scenario, the tiebreaker would not be determined by head-to-head matchups, but instead, the tiebreaker would be determined by each team’s record against divisional opponents.

As it sits today, the Saints are 5-0 against divisional opponents with a chance for a clean sweep when they face Carolina in week 17.

Top Seeds Divisional Records:

  • Green Bay Packers (4-1); 1 Divisional Opponent Remaining 
  • Los Angeles Rams (2-2); 2 Divisional Opponent Remaining 
  • Seattle Seahawks (2-2); 2 Divisional Opponent Remaining 

If there is one thing football fans have learned, it is that anything can happen down the stretch of the regular season. Buckle up, Saints fans. The NFC playoff race is far from over. 

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