As the Packers and 49ers both won, yet again, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that a 1st round playoff bye isn't in the cards this year. You can forget it, barring a miracle. Therefore, the Saints need to focus on one objective and one objective only: winning the NFC South. That means worrying about the Giants, Cowboys, Bears, Lions et al is pointless. The Saints need to worry about their schedule and the Atlanta Falcons. That's it. The Falcons beat the Titans 23-17 in the Georgia Dome Sunday to raise their record to 6-4, now a full game behind the Saints who are 7-3.
I said it prior to this weekend and I'm going to reiterate: there's a very good chance the Falcons are going to win 5 straight games going into New Orleans in week 16. My prediction is... they will be 10-4 when that game comes. Consider their opponents: vs. Minnesota, @ Houston (without Schaub), @ Carolina, vs. Jacksonville. Looks like a pretty easy road to me. So that week 16 matchup is imperative to win, at home, against the Falcons. If the Saints can do this they will pick up another full game over Atlanta and own the tiebreaker thanks to a season series sweep. Because I think the Falcons will win their next 4, that means the Saints can be no worse than 9-5 going into that game. Even if they are a game behind Atlanta, a win would tie their records and give the Saints the divisional edge based on the tiebreaker. That means the Saints cannot afford to go any worse than 2-2 over this upcoming 4 game stretch, and of course if they can do better that is ideal. The Saints host two playoff hopefuls with winning records in the Giants and Lions before travelling to play the Titans and Vikings. None of those games are gimmes, but at least the tougher opponents are at home and the weaker opponents are away.
Of course the 3 seed would be preferable to the 4 seed so that the Saints can avoid the Packers for as long as possible in the playoffs, but at this point there's no guarantee the Packers will be the 1 seed (the 49ers are staying close in that race) and the Saints will likely have to play them at some point anyway if they want to make the Super Bowl. So we can all stop worrying about the other NFC teams now and really just hone in on the Saints and Falcons for this stretch run.