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What Needs to Happen for Saints to Earn First-Round Bye in NFC Playoffs

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert and New Orleans Saints

The Saints’ odds at securing the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs took a hit with the Packers’ victory against the Vikings. Although it will require outside help, there’s still a chance for heading into the final week of the regular season.

Currently, the Saints (12-3) are the No. 3 seed in the NFC. The 49ers (12-3) and the Packers (12-3) are first and second, respectively. As it stands, the Saints would host the sixth-seeded Vikings (10-5) in the Wild Card round.

The Saints lose tiebreakers to the 49ers (head-to-head) and Packers (won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference).

If the Saints finish out the regular with a win against the visiting Panthers (5-10) but remain in their position, they would be only the third 13-win team to participate in the Wild Card round, according to NOLA.com’s Amie Just. The other two were the 1999 Titans and 2011 Saints.

In order for the Saints to capture the No. 1 seed, they’ll need to defeat the visiting Panthers while having the Seahawks (11-4) beat the 49ers and the Lions (3-11-1) upset the Packers.

The Saints can assure themselves of at least a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed by beating the Panthers and either of the following combinations:

1. Packers win, Seahawks win, Vikings win

2. Packers win, Seahawks win, Bears win

In any of these other scenarios, the Saints will remain as the No. 3 seed:

Packers win, 49ers win, Bears win
Packers win, 49ers win, Vikings win
Lions win, Seahawks win, Bears win
Lions win, Seahawks win, Vikings win
Lions win, 49ers win, Vikings win
Lions win, 49ers win, Bears win

Thomas sets NFL single-season receptions record

In last week’s 38-28 victory by the Saints at the Titans (8-7), wide receiver Michael Thomas caught 12 passes (one touchdown) for 136 yards to break Marvin Harrison’s NFL record for most receptions in a season.

Thomas has 145 receptions and can add to his total on Sunday vs. the Panthers. Thomas speaks glowingly of his respect for the Hall of Fame member in which he surpassed.

“Tremendous player, Hall of Fame player…Marvin, there’s not many bad things you could say about him,” Thomas said. “He’s a real professional, the way he went about his business. Just to be in this position right now, it’s a blessing. I don’t take it for granted.”

Thomas isn’t allowing himself to focus on the milestone, with the playoffs around the corner. The humble superstar is singularly focused on winning a Super Bowl.

“To be honest, it doesn’t really mean nothing. We got the victory. We’re trying to play and go to a championship right now, and at the end of the season we’ll look up and see all the things we accomplished,” Thomas said. “But right now we’re focused on one common goal, and that’s a championship.”

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is effusive in his praise for Thomas, with whom he’s established incredible chemistry.

“Nobody works harder. Nobody deserves it more,” Brees said to CST. “We’re all really, really happy for him…It was awesome.”

Thomas, the NFL’s highest paid receiver, shares the motivations that inspired him heading into this historically prolific season. Thomas would love nothing more than for his special campaign to be capped off with the Lombardi Trophy.

“Find ways to enhance my weaknesses, and improve the things I’m really good at so that no one can take those away from me, and keep my blinders on and win games,” Thomas said. “That’s the best feeling at the end of the day. wins, The win column, adding up the win column.”