When the New Orleans Saints 2019 regular season schedule was first released earlier this year, an initial observation was that their Week 8 contest vs. the Arizona Cardinals would be against a team they'd be favored to beat, just prior to their Bye Week.
The Black and Gold currently are a 10-point favorite to win tomorrow afternoon's game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but a victory could actually benefit them in many ways.
The first and most obvious reason is that it would allow (6-1) New Orleans to earn their 6th consecutive victory and gain some additional momentum as they head into the 2nd half of the season immediately following their week off.
However, there are a couple of more reasons, specifically regarding how a win over the (3-3-1) Cardinals would impact the Saints in both the current standings within the NFC South Division, as well as how the conference playoff seeds will be determined at the end of the season.
To that point, the 2nd place team in the NFC South right behind the Saints — the (4-2) Carolina Panthers — are scheduled to play at the undefeated (6-0) and NFC West Division-leading San Francisco 49ers tomorrow evening.
The Saints currently lead the Panthers by a game-and-a-half, meaning that a New Orleans victory and a Carolina loss would give the Saints a comfortable 2-and-a-half-game division lead. Perhaps, more importantly, they would have no worse than a two-game lead if Carolina won the following week while the Saints are on their Bye.
The Saints will play Carolina twice in the 2nd half of the season: at home Week #12 inside the Superdome on November 24th (the Sunday before Thanksgiving); and then on the road at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina in Week #17 (December 29th).
Then even though it might be a bit early to consider, the current playoff seeds in the NFC could also be impacted as well this weekend, and a Saints win over the Cardinals would allow them to remain near the top of the conference.
New Orleans is currently the #2 overall seed in the conference behind San Francisco, who as previously mentioned are undefeated and will host the Panthers tomorrow evening. Nevertheless, Carolina has played well this season so far; and a 49ers win isn't necessarily a "sure thing."
A 49ers loss to the Panthers coupled with a Saints win over the Cardinals would allow the Black and Gold to take over the #1 seed; at least temporarily for their bye week next weekend.
Ultimately, the two teams could end up settling the battle for the #1 overall seed in the NFC between each other, head-to-head. The Saints will host the 49ers in a Week 14 game at home inside of the Superdome, in what's expected to be a highly anticipated game on December 8th.
Additionally, there is the team right behind the Saints in the conference playoff seeding, the #3 overall seed and (6-1) NFC North division-leading Green Bay Packers. The Packers will travel to Kansas City face the (5-2) Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.
Although the Chiefs will be without starting QB Patrick Mahomes and are starting back-up journeyman Matt Moore at quarterback, Kansas City is still a very tough opponent at home inside Arrowhead Stadium; and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are likely to face a difficult task in trying to win that contest.
A Green Bay loss to Kansas City and a New Orleans win over Arizona would put the Black and Gold a full game ahead over the Packers and strengthen their hold on the #2 playoff seed.
If the Saints were to finish as the #2 seed, they'd be guaranteed of having a 1st Round Bye and would host a Divisional Round game at the Superdome in the 2nd week of January.
While it's true that there still will be an entire 2nd half of the season left remaining for them to play, the Saints have put themselves in a very favorable position by continuing to win games while starting #1 QB and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees has been out of the starting line-up.
Following Brees' torn thumb ligament injury back in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams, many observers, analysts, and fans following the NFL assumed the New Orleans Saints would finish with a losing season.
Yet the outstanding coaching efforts by Sean Payton and his staff, the magnificent overall performance in recent weeks of their surging defense, and the steady play of back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater; all were key factors in helping them maintain success while Brees was out.
Since that time, however, Brees has now almost healed fully from surgery, and his playing status is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game on the latest injury report; meaning that he could see action if the team lets him play.
As a direct result of their good fortune: the Saints suddenly now find themselves in a great spot with Brees preparing to return to the line-up and a win tomorrow against the Cardinals would benefit them in many ways.