With their 10th win of the season, the New Orleans Saints clinched the NFC South. However, they need to have home-field advantage to reach the Super Bowl.
It might sound a tad crazy, but it happened on Thanksgiving Night. The New Orleans Saints improved to 10-2 on the season to win the NFC South outright by avenging a loss a few weeks ago to the archrival Atlanta Falcons.
Because the NFC South has been lackluster at best this season, New Orleans can feel good knowing it has a home playoff game coming in January for the entire month of December. The Saints have four more opportunities to improve their playoff positioning, to possibly earn a first-round bye or home-field advantage.
Truth be told, New Orleans needs home-field advantage if the Saints dream of playing in Super Bowl LIV down in Miami this February. Playoff history on the road has not been kind to the Saints. The Saints are 9-11 in their 20 playoff games but are 1-7 in true postseason road games.
Sure, they could buck the trend this year, but New Orleans needs the NFC’s path to Miami to run through the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Their only true road playoff victory in franchise history came in the NFC Wild Card Round against the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2013. These stats obviously don’t include the Saints’ Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts back in 2009.
So the Saints have four games left to get to at best 14-2. Can they do it? What is the mark they’ll need to get to so that the Saints can ensure that they will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs?
New Orleans’ next four games are home vs. the San Francisco 49ers, home vs. the Colts, at the Tennessee Titans and at the division rival Carolina Panthers. The Saints can win all four, but none of these four games will be easy. They could conceivably drop any of these. However, they do need to beat the 49ers next week to have a realistic shot at home-field advantage.
San Francisco is the only team in the NFC with a better record than the Saints. Having the head-to-head tiebreaker will go a long way to ensure that the NFC’s route to Miami will run through New Orleans. The Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers’ NFC West division rival Seattle Seahawks already, should it be Seattle and not San Francisco who wins the NFC West.
With a win over San Francisco next week, 13-3 or possibly 12-4 should be enough to earn home-field advantage in the NFC. If New Orleans can’t beat the 49ers at home, that might prove very costly. History does not indicate that the Saints are capable of winning an NFC Championship type of game on the road in a place like Levi’s Stadium. There are no easy ones left on the schedule.