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How the Saints Can Still Get One of the Top Seeds in NFC Playoffs

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert/New Orleans Saints

The Saints (10-3) relinquished the No. 1 seed in the NFC to the 49ers (11-2) after last Sunday’s 48-46 loss.

Yet, there’s still a path for the Saints to reclaim the top spot or at least enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, according to NOLA’s Amie Just. Currently, the Saints are slotted at No. 3 behind the 49ers and Packers (10-3).

In order for the Saints to finish the regular season as the No. 1 seed, they’d need to win out (vs. Colts, at Titans, at Panthers) and so would the 10-3 Seahawks (at Panthers, vs. Cardinals, vs. 49ers).

The Saints would then earn the tiebreaker over the Seahawks because of their head-to-head victory from Week 3.

If that doesn’t happen, the Saints can still earn a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed if they win out and the Packers lose one of their last three games (vs. Bears, at Vikings, at Lions).

Last weekend, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould converted a 30-yard field goal as time expired to hand the Saints their second home loss of the season. Prior to that, Drew Brees connected with Tre’Quan Smith to give the Saints the lead with 53 seconds remaining but the ensuing two-point conversion failed.

“Obviously, it was a back and forth game. Tough loss and so many different momentum swings in that game we probably have to watch the film two or three times to go through the ebbs and flow that they had,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Credit San Francisco, they made plays at the end when they needed to.”

The Saints scoring a season-high in a loss left a bitter taste in Payton’s mouth.

“It’s a fair question, and yet I’d say any game you consider your best game offensively would have to include a win,” Payton said. “This isn’t just about getting passing yards or rushing, it’s about winning games. So, no.”

The teams combined for a whopping 94 points, 981 yards, 53 first downs and 12 touchdowns.

“I don’t think either side thought they’d be scoring that many points against these defenses,” Brees said to CST. “…It was just back and forth, trading punches like a heavyweight fight.”

Despite the setback, the Saints are still in the race. As a competitor, that’s all that matters to Brees.

“Just play our best,” Brees said to CST about what the Saints need to do. “Win football games and it all works out.”

With seeding on the line, each week down the stretch of the regular season will have significant meaning to the Saints. While it’s human nature to scoreboard watch or look ahead, the mantra for the Saints is to focus on one game at a time.

“It’s real simple. One, two, or three. That’s what we’re playing for. The focus is on the Colts and us playing better football,” Payton said. “We’re either going to be in one of those three spots and the focus has to be on improving and the focus has to be on playing the Colts. It is really that simple.”

Watch Saints Gameday for pre-game updates and analysis before Monday night’s game vs. Colts –  Monday, December 16th at 5:30 pm CT on Cox Sports TV (Cox Ch. 1037 in Louisiana. Other regions check local listings).

After the Game, watch Saints Tonight for highlights, analysis and player interviews including an exclusive interview with Drew Brees (10:30 pm CT).