Believe it or not, the Saints have a road to the Super Bowl

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • New Orleans Saints
    New Orleans Saints
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

Odds are a wild-card team won’t go the distance. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it just last year. It isn’t likely, mathematically speaking, but it isn’t impossible. The New Orleans Saints will need some help to get into the playoffs, but once their ticket is punched anything can happen.

That it’s even a possibility after everything they’ve overcome this season — Jameis Winston’s injury, weeks of COVID-19 absences, constant offensive line shakeups, and Sean Payton’s own stint on the COVID list — speaks to just how dangerous they can be. If they can get a few more players back, they could really make some noise in the postseason

Here’s how the Saints can reach Super Bowl LVI:

Week 18

It all starts with a win next Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons don’t have anything to play for but spite, and that should be enough for them to take a game with their most hated rival seriously. New Orleans needs to pull out all the stops and put this game away in a hurry with stifling defense and mistake-free offense. That’s been their formula since Taysom Hill got the starting nod. It’s gotten them this far, and they should stay at it.

But a win in Atlanta won’t be enough to get the Saints into the postseason. They’ll need some help from the Los Angeles Rams in their regular season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco needs a win to avoid elimination. L.A. needs a victory to clinch the NFC West and the No. 2 seed; a loss jeopardizes that and could see them fall to the No. 5 seed, losing a home playoff game.

So, again: the Saints beat Atlanta and the Rams beat San Francisco, putting New Orleans in the tournament.

Wild Card Weekend

The only playoff seed the Saints are eligible for is the No. 7 spot, and the only way they get it is if they and the Rams both win in Week 18. That sets up a first-round game in Los Angeles between both teams. Maybe the Rams run New Orleans off the field, riding the momentum behind a would-be six-game winning streak, but that doesn’t feel likely. The Saints defense would have something to say about that.

New Orleans ranks fourth-best in the NFL for both yards per play allowed (5.1) and points per game (19.7). The Saints have an experienced, talented secondary that can keep up with the Rams passing game. It’s fair to wonder if the New Orleans offense could do its part, but their defense showing up would go a long way. If they can limit L.A. to fewer than 20 points in this game, they’ll have a real shot at winning.

So let’s say the Saints go to Los Angeles and pull off an upset. What happens next?

Divisional Round

As the lowest-ranked NFC playoff team, the Saints would advance to face the highest-ranked team in the tournament: the No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers. And that’s a favorable matchup. The Saints shredded Green Bay at a neutral site in the season opener, frustrating Aaron Rodgers more than any other opponent. They’ve beaten Green Bay before. They’ve sacked Rodgers, intercepted him, and taken away his favorite receiver in Davante Adams. Their style of football should travel well even to snowy Wisconsin in January.

The concerns are the same here, though. There are still questions surrounding the offense and whether New Orleans can put up enough points to win — in Week 18, in the Wild Card Round, or in the Divisional Round. If there’s a reason to think the Saints could go in Green Bay and light up the scoreboard, it’s the season-high 38 points they created by scheming the Packers defense to death back in Week 1.

Maybe it happens again. Crazier things have happened. If the Saints are going to get to the NFC title game, this is how it happens.

NFC Championship Game

So the Saints have reached the playoffs. They’ve won two games on the road against favored opponents, and now they just need to do it one more time to get to the Super Bowl. New Orleans has gone 6-3 this year in games away from the Caesars Superdome (including that neutral site opener with Green Bay) and there’s reason to think they’ll be competitive even in the postseason.

Who could they face in this hypothetical title fight? There are still some moving parts involved, but the most likely first-round playoff games in the NFC are:

  • No. 3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Eagles

  • No. 4 Dallas Cowboys vs. No. 5 Arizona Cardinals

The Saints would draw the highest-ranked remaining team, who would host the championship game. And there’s a very good chance that ends up being the Buccaneers, which would just be hilarious. There isn’t a defense in the NFL that Tom Brady wants to face less than New Orleans. The Saints have swept his team twice in two seasons. That’s a surprisingly winnable matchup for them. I’d feel less confident against the Cowboys or Cardinals — and definitely the Eagles, who have had New Orleans’ number lately — but if it’s the Saints and the Buccaneers with a Super Bowl on the line, I like New Orleans a lot.

Reviewing the road to Super Bowl LVI

  • Week 18: Saints beat Falcons, Rams beat 49ers

  • Wild Card Weekend: Saints beat Rams

  • Divisional Round: Saints beat Packers

  • NFC Championship Game: Saints beat highest-ranked playoff seed (likely No. 3 seed Buccaneers)

Is this a realistic scenario? Maybe not. The Saints still need to qualify for the playoffs in the first place. Winning a series of games on the road against talented opponents won’t be easy. But what’s important is that even with everything thrown at New Orleans they’re still in the conversation. They have a chance. They’ve come this far, and it’s encouraging to see a path for them to keep going further.

1

1