Jim, Randal and Peter all made an excellent point via the mailbag, one I wish I had thought of earlier. Everyone interested in home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs should know this: Minnesota will win the tiebreaker with New Orleans if those teams finish tied for the top record in the conference.
The Saints (11-0) can avoid that possibility by remaining a game ahead of the Vikings (10-1). But here’s the scenario that would allow Minnesota to clinch the top seed:
The Saints would need to win one fewer game than the Vikings over the final five games of the season.
Assuming their final records are tied for the best in the NFC, we go to this list of tiebreakers.
The teams don’t have a head-to-head matchup, so we move to conference record.
Because they have only NFC games remaining on their schedule, the Saints by definition would have a worse conference record than the Vikings if the teams finish with the same regular-season record. Minnesota’s only loss this season was to Pittsburgh of the AFC.
We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here. Neither team has even clinched a playoff spot, let alone its division or a first-round bye. But already the NFL is buzzing about a potential Vikings-Saints playoff game.
If things continue the way they’re going, that matchup would be played at the Superdome. If the Vikings catch the Saints over the final five games, the game would be at the Metrodome. Stay tuned.