Next up for the Saints – Carolina Panthers

According to a report from … at 7-8, Saints need to win these final two games and get some help.

The New Orleans Saints’ playoff odds took a hit with the team’s 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins on “Monday Night Football.” The loss dropped the Saints to 7-8 and put the them behind the San Francisco 49ers (8-7) and Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) for the final two wild card spots in the NFC. The Saints have the same record as the Minnesota Vikings (7-8) and Atlanta Falcons (7-8) with the Washington Football Team still barely alive at 6-9.

But there is a clear path to the playoffs for the Saints. They need to win their final two games (vs. Carolina and at Atlanta) and have the 49ers and Vikings each lose one of their remaining games, preferably for the 49ers to lose to the Los Angeles Rams.

The top four playoff teams battling for seeding could work in the Saints’ favor as the Green Bay Packers (12-3) only have a one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys (11-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) and Rams (11-4). The Arizona Cardinals (10-5) still can overtake the Rams for the NFC West title and earn a coveted home playoff game in the first round. The closeness of the playoff races means it’s less likely the Rams or Cowboys will rest their starters in Week 18.

Winning is out is a must for the Saints to make the playoffs. At 9-8, the Saints would be in a good position to make the playoffs as long as the 49ers and Vikings each lose another game. The Saints don’t want to finish tied with the Eagles for the final playoff spot as they would lose the first tiebreaker (head-to-head as the Eagles won the Week 11 game).

The Vikings play the Packers in Week 17 and while the 49ers play the Houston Texans in Week 17 they have to play at the Rams in Week 18. The 49ers are also dealing with an injury situation to starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Because the Saints haven’t played the Vikings or 49ers the next tiebreaker would be conference record. The Saints are 5-5 in the conference with two NFC games to play. The Vikings are 5-5 in the conference with two NFC games to play. The 49ers are 6-5 in the conference with one NFC game to play. If the teams have the same conference record the next tiebreakers are best won-loss tied percentage in common games (minimum of four) and then strength of victory. View NFL tiebreakers here >> The 49ers and Saints have five common opponents (Tennessee Titans, Eagles, Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Falcons). The 49ers are 2-4 and the Saints are 2-3 with one game still to play against Atlanta.

In short, there are a lot of things that can happen in the final two weeks of the season. If you’re a Saints fan looking for rooting interests for Week 17 you want the Washington Football Team to beat the Eagles, the Packers to beat the Vikings and the Texans to beat the 49ers. But the biggest thing you want to root for is for the Saints to beat the Panthers and then the Falcons.