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Last season, the Saints’ Super Bowl hopes ended when they lost, as seven-point favorites, at home against the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Saints’ hopes for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will end if they lose, as seven-point favorites, at home against the Vikings on Christmas Day.
The Vikings-Saints game is a big one for the Saints, as a win keeps them in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, which gives them the only bye in the conference and home-field advantage through the NFC Championship Game. But a loss eliminates the Saints from contention for the No. 1 seed.
A loss also means the Saints could still end up finishing second in the NFC South and having to go on the road in the wild card round of the playoffs. The Saints have a one-game lead over the Buccaneers and own the tiebreaker advantage, but if the Saints lose today, that allows the Buccaneers to stay alive: If the Saints lose their last two and the Bucs win their last two, Tampa Bay takes the division.
So the Saints can’t afford to look past the Vikings. That’s a lesson they may have learned in the playoffs last season.