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What needs to happen for the Saints to clinch a playoff spot

The Saints are still alive in the playoffs, but they need to win out and have a few other things go their way to win the division.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints are still alive in the playoff race after beating the Cleveland Browns 17-10 on Sunday.

However, a postseason berth will require the Saints to not only win out but for a few other results to go their way as well.

Here's where things sit - the NFC South has not been clinched yet. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lead the division with a 7-8 record. The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are 2nd and 3rd respectively with both having 6-9 records.

While the Saints are technically still eligible for a wild-card spot, the likelihood of that is extremely unlikely, as NOLA.com reports, so the best path for the Saints to make the postseason is to win the NFC South.

After coming back to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 19-16 in overtime on Christmas, the struggling Buccaneers would need to lose their remaining two games for the Saints to have a chance at winning the division. 

The Saints would also need to win out. Due to having a division record of 2-3, they cannot lose another game or they will be eliminated. Tampa Bay has an advantage in head-to-head (2-0) and division record (3-1) over the Saints, so New Orleans would need to finish with more wins to win the division.

Tampa Bay's remaining games are both in-division - against the Panthers, who beat them earlier in the season, and the Atlanta Falcons, who are eliminated from the playoffs.

The Saints' remaining two games are against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers. The Eagles are currently the no. 1 seed in the NFC and are playoff-bound, but due to their loss to the Cowboys on Saturday, they have not clinched the first seed yet, so they will likely not rest any starters.

The Panthers are also alive in the playoff hunt and have an easier road than New Orleans. Led by interim coach Steve Wilks, the Panthers have won four of their last six games.

If Carolina beats Tampa Bay this weekend, then they simply need to beat New Orleans on Week 18 in order to clinch the NFC South, as they would own the divisional record and head-to-head tiebreakers over Tampa Bay even if the Buccaneers defeat the Falcons.

So, to break it down:

On Week 17, the Saints need to beat the Eagles, and the Buccaneers need to lose to the Panthers. 

On Week 18, the Saints need to beat the Panthers, and the Buccaneers need to lose to the Falcons. 

If those things happen, then the Saints would clinch the NFC South at 8-9 and would be playoff-bound. This scenario is unlikely, but not impossible.

The Saints play the Eagles in Philadelphia on January 1, 2023. The game kicks off at 12:00 p.m. on FOX.


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