Did Saints Help Themselves By Losing?
Did the New Orleans Saints actually help themselves by losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their regular season finale?
I'm never a guy that advocates losing a game, for anything, like losing to move up the draft board, but I think they just may have.
If the Saints had won, they would have been the #3-seed, and would have hosted the Atlanta Falcons, a team they split their two games with this year.
Had they won that game, they would probably have had to travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings, a team they lost to on opening week, 29-19.
As things turned out, the now 4th-seeded Saints will now host the Panthers, a team they beat by at least ten points in their two-game sweep.
If New Orleans advances, they will likely travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles, a team who scored a grand total of 19 points over their final two games, playing without their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Understand, there really is no set bracket in the playoffs. The Eagles will host the lowest-seed team remaining, while the Vikings will host the highest-seeded team remaining.
So, if the Saints win, they can still face the Vikings in the Divisional Round, provided the Falcons beat the Rams. But I'm writing this as if the Rams win, which I think will be the case.
Sure, this is the NFL, and the Saints can easily lose on Sunday, but I think they're going to win.
I think they match-up a whole lot better against the Panthers than they do the Falcons.
In their first win over Carolina, a 34-13 triumph, the Saints outgained the Panthers, in terms of total yards, 362-288.
In their second win over Carolina, a 31-21 victory, the Saints outgained the Panthers, 400-279.
Honestly, the games weren't all that close.
Yes, it's a different time of the season, the playoffs, and yes, Cam Newton is healthy, and playing well, two things he wasn't, at least in the first meeting.
The Panthers are good. They won 11 games, the same as the Saints, and made the playoffs, just like the Saints.
I just think the Falcons match-up better with the Saints, mainly due to their talent at the skill positions, than do the Panthers, and I think the regular season showed that.
Looking ahead to a potential Divisional Round match-up with the Eagles, again, I like the Saints' chances.
The Eagles were shutout by the Cowboys last Sunday, 6-0, but I'm not going to even count that. Philly already had the top-seed in the NFC Playoffs locked up, and were resting most of their key personnel, including back-up quarterback Nick Foles, who played very little.
Still, the Eagles will be without Carson Wentz, who was a legitimate contender for the league MVP, before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Winning in Philadelphia, in mid-January, won't be easy, but this is a different Saints team. This is a team that's actually equipped to win under those circumstances. This is a team that now plays defense.
Yes, I'd rather play Philadelphia than Minnesota, who crushed the Saints on opening week.
Sure, that was four months ago, and this is a different New Orleans squad, but just like I don't think the Panthers match-up very well with the Saints, I don't believe the Saints match-up all that great with the Vikings.
Minnesota is a physical bunch, who has a great front-7, and is very good at home, losing only one game.
And while the Vikings, just like the Eagles, lost their starting quarterback, they don't rely on Sam Bradford nearly as much as the Eagles rely on Wentz.
The Vikings have gone 12-3 with Case Keenum as their starting quarterback this season, and I think Keenum will be the starter even if Bradford is healthy in the playoffs.
So, would you rather play a combination of the Falcons and Vikings, or the Panthers and Eagles to advance to the NFC Championship Game?
My vote goes for the latter.
So, was I mad when Chris Godwin caught that game-winning touchdown pass from 39 yards away with only :09 left on Sunday? Yes. And did I want the Saints to win? Most definitely.
But by losing, and the scenario being what it is, the Saints likely have an easier road to the NFC title game.