Saints Playoff Seeding Scenarios

Plenty is still at stake for New Orleans as they head into their regular season finale against Carolina.
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The 11-4 New Orleans Saints come into the last week of the 2020 NFL season with their playoff spot guaranteed but postseason seeding still to be determined. New Orleans is guaranteed at least one home playoff game as champions of the NFC South. They currently sit in the Number Two spot in the conference, one game behind the 12-3 Green Bay Packers. Green Bay defeated the Saints back in Week 3, 37-30, in the Superdome. That win gives the Packers a head-to-head tiebreaker edge if the two teams were to finish tied in the standings.

The Seattle Seahawks, like the Saints, have an 11-4 record. Seattle has won the NFC West title. New Orleans and Seattle did not play each other this year. The Saints currently hold the tiebreaker over the Seahawks because of a better conference record. The Saints are 9-2 against NFC opponents, while Seattle is 8-3 against the conference. Here is who New Orleans, Green Bay, and Seattle play in Week 17.

Saints at Carolina Panthers (5-10)

Packers at Chicago Bears (8-7)

Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (6-9)

The top seed carries extra importance this season not only because it guarantees home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but it's also the only spot that gets a first-round bye because of an extra playoff team added in each conference this season.

Chicago heads into the season finale with their playoff hopes still alive, but their best chance to get in is to defeat the Packers. The Panthers and 49ers have been eliminated from the postseason, but are dangerous division foes who will be playing at home.

These are the different scenarios that could play out in these three games, and how they would affect the Saints’ playoff seeding.

Dec 29, 2019; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY

Dec 29, 2019; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY

Scenario #1

NEW ORLEANS BEATS CAROLINA

GREEN BAY LOSES TO CHICAGO

SEATTLE BEATS SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Saints #1 seed, Seahawks #2, Packers #3

This scenario would cause the Saints, Seahawks, and Packers to finish with identical 12-4 records. New Orleans would finish with a 10-2 record against NFC opponents, while both the Packers and Seahawks would have a 9-3 record against the conference. The three-way tie would also nullify Green Bay's head-to-head win over the Saints and result in New Orleans getting the Number One seed based on a better conference record than the Packers or Seahawks. This is the only scenario where the Saints could earn the top seed. Seattle would get the second seed over Green Bay based on a better record against common opponents.

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Scenario #2

NEW ORLEANS BEATS CAROLINA

GREEN BAY BEATS CHICAGO

SEATTLE BEATS SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Packers #1, Saints #2, Seahawks #3

The Packers would get the conference's top spot if this happened simply because of a better overall record (13-3) than the 12-4 finish from New Orleans and Seattle. The Saints would earn the 2nd seed because of a better conference record.

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY 

Scenario #3

NEW ORLEANS BEATS CAROLINA

GREEN BAY LOSES TO CHICAGO

SEATTLE LOSES TO SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Packers #1, Saints #2, Seahawks #3

This is where the Saints’ loss to the Packers at home in Week 3 comes back to haunt them. Green Bay and New Orleans would finish with identical 12-4 records, but the top seed goes to the Packers because of that head-to-head win. The Seahawks would finish third in the conference with an 11-5 mark.

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario #4

NEW ORLEANS LOSES TO CAROLINA

GREEN BAY LOSES TO CHICAGO

SEATTLE LOSES TO SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Packers #1, Saints #2, Seahawks #3

Unthinkable, but possible. The status quo remains in this outcome. Green Bay gets the top spot with the best conference record at 12-4. New Orleans would have a 9-3 record against NFC foes if this happened, earning the 2nd seed because of Seattle's 8-4 conference record in this result.

Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario #5

NEW ORLEANS LOSES TO CAROLINA

GREEN BAY BEATS CHICAGO

SEATTLE LOSES TO SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Packers #1, Saints #2, Seahawks #3

Again, Green Bay gets the top seed in this scenario because of the better record. The Saints hold on to the second spot because of their better conference record than Seattle.

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario #6

NEW ORLEANS LOSES TO CAROLINA

GREEN BAY BEATS CHICAGO

SEATTLE BEATS SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Packers #1, Seahawks #2, Saints #3

This scenario results in the Packers finishing 13-3, Seattle 12-4, and New Orleans at 11-5. It would also likely mean that the Saints would have to play on the road in the divisional round if they win their 1st round game, barring an upset of the Seahawks in their first-round matchup.

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario #7

NEW ORLEANS LOSES TO CAROLINA

GREEN BAY LOSES TO CHICAGO

SEATTLE BEATS SAN FRANCISCO

Result = Seahawks #1, Packers #2, Saints #3

Seattle's only path to the Number One seed lies in this scenario. The Seahawks and Packers would both finish 12-4, but Seattle gets the bye because of the better record than the Packers against common opponents. New Orleans would fall to 11-5 and again face the possibility of playing on the road in the second round unless the Packers are upset at home in the 1st round.

As you see, there is plenty at stake for New Orleans heading into the season finale. That probably means that New Orleans coach Sean Payton will not choose to rest any of his starters against Carolina. The Packers and Bears play an early afternoon game, so the Saints and Seahawks will have a better idea of where they stand as they prepare for a late afternoon kickoff in their games.