The look on Drew Brees‘ face Sunday night said it all. The New Orleans Saints, and their fans know that they are better than the performance they put on against the 49ers. Unfortunately, for the Saints it’s not what you know it’s what you show. The Saints were on a tear winning their last five out of six games. All that momentum came to a screeching halt as a pass from Brees to Colston was overthrown and tipped into the waiting hands of the 49ers. The 49ers found the endzone twice after picking off Drew Brees and the Saints were swamped with a deluge of Niners in their backfield all night. The Saints chances seemed to wash away in a flood of sacks, interceptions and Colin Kaepernick smiles.
All is not lost though. The Saints while managing to do nothing but fall flat on their face are not out of it. The 5 teams ( Seahawks, Buccaneers, Vikings, Redskins, Cowboys) in front of them for the Wild Card are still within striking distance. That’s because all, but the Redskins lost this past week. Time, as they say, is of the essence. The Saints have the Atlanta Falcons coming up for a Thursday night tilt in the Georgia Dome. If the 49ers game was big then the Falcons game is huge. The Saints are ran out of having any wiggle room with the 49ers loss. The Seahawks led the Wild Card chase with a 6-5 record and the only advantage they hold over the other teams chasing them is a 4 week season. But, is there really an advantage for any one of the teams hoping for the playoffs? Not a single one of the teams in the hunt for the playoffs has a stroll down through the rose garden for the chance to play in the season that counts the most. Here’s the breakdown of those teams and their schedules
Playoff standings if playoffs started today
Position Team Remaining Schedule
6. Seahawks (6-5) @ Bears, Cards, @ Bills, 49ers, Rams
The Seahawks are in the lead. The Seahawks fatal flaw has been playing away from the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field. On the road the Seahawks are a miserable 1-5. Their away games are against the Bears and Bills. While the Bills are beatable, the Bears at Solider Field are a hard mountain to climb. Throw the 49ers into the mix at home and the Seahawks’ bird might just be cooked. The possibility of losing their starting cornerbacks is something that could sink the Seahawks chances as well. Regardless of what happens on defense for the Seahawks it won’t be easy for them. I can’t see the Hawks winning these crucial games unless they play out of their minds.
7. Buccaneers (6-5) @ Broncos, Eagles, @ Saints, Rams, @ Falcons
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the thick of things holding the second spot in the Wild Card race. Things don’t get easier for Tampa Bay as they travel to Denver to face Payton Manning and a fierce Broncos offense. The Buccaneers also face the Saints and Falcons in their homes. It’s hard to imagine the Buccaneers beating both the Saints and Falcons going away. The Buccaneers haven’t won in the Georgia Dome since 2007. I don’t see that losing streak coming to an end this year. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but with a team like the St. Louis Rams sprinkled in between these two games doesn’t make it easier to look ahead to the Saints. The Rams are a hard team to figure out and play hard at home. They will be looking to play spoiler. The Buccaneers are a year away from getting it all together.
8. Vikings (6-5) @ Packers, Bears, @ Rams, @ Texans, Packers
The Minnesota Vikings hold the third spot in the Wild Card race. The Vikings have a lost the 3 out of their last 4 games. Not exactly the way you want to be going in the end of the season. It’s a stretch to think they’ll do anything, but move down. Couple that with the second straight game in which all-world do everything player Percy Harvin sat out due to an injury (ankle) and the cause for concern is legit. The Vikings are staring down one of the hardest schedules left. If the unknown timetable for Harvin to come back isn’t disconcerting then the schedule should leave Vikings fans praying to the Norse Gods for help. What’s Brett Farve’s number?
9. Redskins (5-6) Giants, Ravens, @ Browns, @ Eagles, Cowboys
The Redskins hold the fourth spot in the Wild Card race. They face the Giants next and follow that up with a visit from the red-hot Ravens. The dream of playoffs maybe in some fans heads. That dream could and probably will be interrupted with visions of Robert Griffin III running for his life against the Giants. The Giants have completed their November swoon and look like they’re back to their old selfs after demolishing the Packers. Couple that with the image of Joe Flacco throwing against the Redskins (2nd worst secondary in the league) and that should finish off the nightmare of the Skins’ fans. The Redskins climb is uphill and they will need some help as they won’t run the table. The Redskins have the talent to get the job done, but they will have to play their best football now.
10. Cowboys (5-6) Eagles, @ Bengals, Steelers, Saints, @Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are holding down the 5th spot in the Wild Card race. The Cowboys have to run the table in hopes to make the playoffs. The Cowboys inconstant play has led to a record of wins and losses that is more neurotic than the cat lady down in apartment B13. The Cowboys have to face Cincinnati and then turn around face the Steelers. The Bengals are led by Andy Dalton. The Bengals will be waiting for the Cowboys and should be salivating at the chance to play the ‘Boys’. Roethlisberger or not the Steelers aren’t an easy win and the Cowboys haven’t found an easy win all year. The Cowboys inability to finish games and play complete ones will haunt Romo for years to come. Cowboys have a better chance at having Aikman coming back than making the playoffs.
11. Saints (5-6) @ Falcons, @ Giants, Buccaneers, @ Cowboys, Panthers
The New Orleans Saints are hanging onto dear life in the sixth spot in the Wild Card race. At first look at the Saints loss against the 49ers one would have to think twice about their chances in making a run to the playoffs. In two foul swoops(interceptions) the Saints went to having everything setup perfectly to be on top of the playoff mix to doing the equivalent of a swan diving down a flight of concrete steps. No matter how you land it’s not going to be pretty. Yes you will survive, but hurting won’t cover the sensations you’ll be feeling.The Saints have made an improbable run from sheer desuetude to near delirium for their fans. The Saints didn’t help themselves by losing to the 49ers. If the feeling of frustration and loss was palpable on Sunday night then the relief felt if the Saints beat the Falcons will be just as equal. The Saints face what could be the toughest last four games of the season for a Wild-Card hopeful. If there is a team that can go 2-3 against NFC division leaders it would be this Saints team. The Saints are a hard team to stop once they get going and have a lead. The 49ers were fortunate that the ball bounced the way it did off of Colston’s hands. Consider this, in the past 6 games the Saints defense has gotten better. The real question is whether or not the ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality will prevail for the Saints the rest of the season. The 49ers and Falcons were able to gash the Saints for big yard plays. The difference being the Falcons couldn’t finish where the 49ers could. If the Saints are hoping to make the playoffs they have to put their hopes not in Drew Brees, but the defense. That in itself is scary enough for Saints fans, schedule aside. The Saints face a shaky Falcons team which has found ways to eek out wins time after time. Had the Roddy ’The Mouth” White kept running on the third down play on the last drive the Falcons would have won. Instead White pulled up slightly and the ball sailed over his head and out of the Saints’ nightmares. The Saints can ill afford to look past anything other than their next game. If the Saints want to make the playoff they have to do one thing. The Saints must start playing like it’s the playoffs, because for them in all reality it is.