The New Orleans Saints (9-3) can officially clinch a playoff berth this week if they beat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night AND the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals all lose.
Obviously that’s a lot to ask for in one week. But the most important part is beating the Panthers (9-3). If the Saints do that, they’ll be a virtual lock for a playoff berth and a heavy favorite to win the NFC South.
If the Saints wind up splitting with the Panthers in Weeks 14 and 16 and both teams finish 12-4, New Orleans will win the tie-breaker (based on a better conference record).
If both teams finish 11-5 or 10-6, the tie-breaker will depend on which teams they lose to. The tie-breaker order is 1. Head-to-head results; 2. Division record; 3. Record vs. common opponents; 4. Conference record; 5. Strength of victory.
To see how things will play out based on various wins and losses, play around with ESPN.com's playoff machine.