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No first-round playoff bye but Saints could host NFC championship game

The only NFL team in the last decade to have a 13–3 record and not get a first-round playoff bye is the New Orleans Saints.

NEW ORLEANS — To get to the Super Bowl, the Saints probably only have to win twice on the road.

The Saints finished 13–3. Normally, that would have earned them a bye in the first round of playoffs, but this year, three teams (the Saints, the Packers, and the 49ers) had a 13–3 record.

The Packers and 49ers both lost to an AFC team during the regular season, so their NFC records were slightly better than New Orleans'. Because the Saints lost to NFC teams, they are the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

In the last decade, 19 NFL teams have finished their seasons with a 13–3 record, and 11 of those, including the Saints in 2018, were the No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. 

Six of the 19 teams with that record were the No. 2 seeds, and two teams ended up as the No. 3 seeds, including the Saints this year.

The only other team with a 13–3 record to end up as a No. 3 seed was the 2011 Saints, so the only NFL team in the last decade to have a 13–3 record and not get a first-round playoff bye is the New Orleans Saints.

That's some bad luck. 

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Sunday, the Saints host the Vikings, the No. 6 seed. If the Saints win, they go to Green Bay the following week, and that's a game the Saints can win.

In the NFC championship game, the Saints would most likely play in San Francisco, but New Orleans could host the NFC championship game.

Whoever wins between Seattle and Philadelphia would play at San Francisco in the divisional round.

If the Seahawks or the Eagles beat the 49ers and the Saints were to beat Green Bay after defeating the Vikings Sunday, the NFC championship game would come back to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome

It doesn't happen often.

In the last 20 years — that's 40 championship games — the No. 1 or No. 2 seed has hosted 38 of them, but twice — No. 3 seed Indianapolis in 2006 and No. 4 seed Arizona in 2008 — lower-seeded teams have hosted.

Seattle beat the 49ers once already this season. It's possible they can do it again.

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