Saints can virtually clinch tonight

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints (10-5) cannot officially clinch a playoff berth tonight. But if the San Francisco 49ers (10-4) lose against the Atlanta Falcons on “Monday Night Football” the Saints will virtually be guaranteed a playoff spot.

The 49ers play at the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) in Week 17. And the Saints can clinch a playoff spot if the Cardinals lose that game or the 49ers lose their final two games. ... The only wrinkle would be a tie between the 49ers and Cardinals in Week 17.

Of course, the simplest way for the Saints to get into the playoffs is by winning next week, at home against Tampa Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If the Saints win, they’re in -- no matter what happens with any other teams.

And the Saints could still wind up as the No. 2 seed in the NFC if they win and the Carolina Panthers (11-4) lose at Atlanta next week.

So as much as it pains the Who Dat Nation, there are plenty of reasons to root for the dreaded Falcons over the next two weeks.