Saints playoff scenarios: Week 17

Not much has been settled for the New Orleans Saints (10-5) with just one week remaining in the NFL's regular season. Remarkably, they could still finish as high as the No. 2 seed in the NFC, or they could still miss the playoffs entirely.

As coach Sean Payton and players said Monday, all they're focused on is the simplest scenario: Win and they're in. But here's the full breakdown of all the possibilities:

  • Saints clinch the No. 2 seed if they win at home against Tampa Bay AND the Carolina Panthers (11-4) lose at Atlanta.

  • Saints clinch at least a wild-card playoff spot if they win or tie OR the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) lose at home against the San Francisco 49ers (11-4). (Saints will be the No. 5 seed if they win and San Francisco loses; Saints will be the No. 6 seed if San Francisco wins).

  • Saints miss the playoffs if they lose and Arizona wins or ties.

The Saints' possible opponent in a Round 1 playoff game is even more up for grabs. Four teams are still in play for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the NFC -- the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) and Dallas Cowboys (8-7) for one NFC East spot; the Chicago Bears (8-7) and Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) for one NFC North spot. Those races will easily sort themselves out, since Philadelphia is playing at Dallas and Green Bay is playing at Chicago in a pair of winner-take-all games for their respective division titles.

If the Eagles win, they will be the No. 3 seed (and will host the No. 6 seed in the first round of the playoffs). If the Cowboys and Bears win, Chicago will be the 3 seed. And if the Cowboys and Packers win, Dallas will be the 3 seed.