The New Orleans Saints are on bye this week, so who should fans root for? Some choices are easier than others when you consider local ties, playoff implications, and the Saints’ schedule of upcoming opponents down the stretch.
But we’ve broken down each individual matchup and made our picks for Saints fans’ rooting interests in Week 11. Here’s where we stand:
This game doesn’t carry many implications for the Saints one way or another, so go nuts. Both teams have players with Louisiana ties (LSU products Grant Delpit, Ethan Pocic, and Jacob Phillips in Cleveland; their peers Patrick Peterson, Kwon Alexander, and Breiden Fehoko in Pittsburgh, plus Tulane’s Duece Watts). Both AFC North teams are 6-3 so take your pick.
Bears at Lions: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
The Lions are an easy team to root for, helped by all of their Saints connections: head coach Dan Campbell, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and team captain Alex Anzalone, plus backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is still out while recovering from an injury. The Saints have little but bad blood with the Bears, comparatively, so feel free to root for Campbell’s team on Sunday.
Chargers at Packers: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
The Packers are down but not out; the weak NFC gives them an outside chance at rallying for a wild card seed despite their 3-6 record. But a loss to the Chargers would squash their playoff odds (right now, trembling at 10% per the New York Times simulator). So it’s an easy choice to root for the AFC team this week to put the Packers away and clarify that playoff picture.
Raiders at Dolphins: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Here’s another all-AFC matchup. The Raiders and Dolphins have little influence on the Saints (or their playoff ambitions), so take your pick: the plucky underdog Raiders or the always-entertaining Dolphins? We’ll go with Miami because a Las Vegas win would put them at six wins on the season, which is how many games Derek Carr won as their quarterback last season before being benched with two weeks left in the season.
Giants at Commanders: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
We’re in a similar boat here as the Chargers-Packers game; Washington is in the hunt for a wild card seed at 4-6, and a win would put them in direct competition with the Saints if New Orleans loses another game. The Saints need as few competitors for those three wild card spots as possible. The Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys are favored to take two of them, and the Minnesota Vikings have an edge on the Saints for the third and final spot (if it comes to that). Root for a big upset by the Giants to take Washington out of the picture.
Cowboys at Panthers: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
This is easy: root against Carolina, which is not the same thing as pulling for Dallas. The Panthers are stuck deep in the NFC South’s basement and a loss to the Cowboys would keep them there. We can’t fault any Saints fans for hesitating to throw their support behind the Cowboys, but a Panthers loss would be better for New Orleans in the long run. Remember, Carolina doesn’t have their own first-round pick in 2024 after trading it to move up for Bryce Young.
Titans at Jaguars: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Yuck, another all-AFC game. Same as before: take your pick between two teams who don’t factor into the equation for New Orleans. Maybe pull for the Titans to upset Jacksonville and make Doug Pederson’s record as their head coach (15-11) look a little worse after the Saints passed on him as a candidate to replace Sean Payton last year.
Cardinals at Texans: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Want to keep one of those exciting young quarterback prospects like Drake Maye or Caleb Williams out of the NFC? Root for the Cardinals on Sunday. Even if they ultimately stick with Kyler Murray, owning a top-two draft choice would give them a big bargaining chip to trade to another quarterback-needy team in the conference (like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Atlanta Falcons if they end up picking inside the top-10 and look to trade up further).
Buccaneers at 49ers: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Kind of a similar situation to the Panthers-Cowboys game: pull against the NFC South team, don’t root for the Saints’ historic rival playing them. The Buccaneers are rallying to make it competitive in the division title race and a loss to the 49ers would really set them back. A win, combined with a Saints loss next week, would take New Orleans out of the playoffs. A Tampa Bay loss would give the Saints some much-needed breathing-room.
Jets at Bills: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Pull for the Jets here — former Saints punter Thomas Morstead has endeared himself to another fanbase and it would be great to see him get a a win. Some Saints fans with an LSU affinity might want to root for new Bills offensive coordinator Joe Brady, but that’s on them. We’re always happy to see Morstead doing well around these parts.
Seahawks at Rams: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
This is an interesting one. Maybe you want to root for the Rams so Seattle takes a loss and falls behind in the wild card race, giving the Saints a shot if they stumble after the bye. Or you could be pulling for the Seahawks to hand the Rams their seventh loss in eleven games. That’s our choice. The deadline for the NFL to flex the Saints-Rams game at SoFi Stadium later this season is Thanksgiving Day, and there’s a slim chance that they could move that game out of its Thursday night slot and into a conventional Sunday afternoon slot if the Rams are looking sorry. No late-season road games on short weeks, please.
Vikings at Broncos: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Well this is an obvious choice: root against Denver! The Saints have a couple of draft picks coming back to them from the Broncos including a lucrative second-rounder, which right now falls in the mid-40’s. Sean Payton’s team has figured some things out as of late and it would be really nice to see them fall back to Earth so that those draft picks improve. It’s unrealistic to expect the first pick in the second round at this point, but somewhere in the 30’s would be very helpful.
Eagles at Chiefs: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Let’s go with the AFC team here. An Eagles loss would weaken the NFC playoff picture and maybe reveal some things the Saints could exploit if they wind up seeing them later this year. New Orleans is a long shot to reach the Super Bowl, but it’s a safe bet that their road to a championship would run through Philadelphia.