The New Orleans Saints basically sleepwalked through their 33-14 regular-season finale loss at home to the Carolina Panthers yesterday in a game that essentially was played with all backup players. The team now quickly turns its focus towards the NFL playoffs, which officially get underway this upcoming weekend in the Wild Card round.
As of this moment, the Saints — who finished the 2018 season with a (13-3) win-loss record, a 2nd straight NFC South Division Championship, the #1 overall playoff seed in the NFC, and a week off with rest thanks to earning an opening round Bye — will be facing one of three possible teams: the #4 seed Dallas Cowboys, the #5 seed Seattle Seahawks, or the #6 seed Philadelphia Eagles, in two weeks from now.
That game won’t take place until Sunday, January 13th, when New Orleans will host the lowest seeded winner out of those three teams, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in what’s known as the Divisional Round (the Saints would not face either the #2 seed Los Angeles Rams or the #3 seed Chicago Bears until the NFC Championship Game).
— NFL345 (@NFL345) December 31, 2018
But until next week’s games are played, New Orleans can only sit back and wait until they know for certain who that team will actually be.
Out of those three teams, however, which of them do Saints fans NOT want to see the Black and Gold face? That likely all depends on your own personal point of view. The standard answer that both Saints players and coaches alike will be telling everyone for the next week or so will probably be something along the lines of “it doesn’t really matter who it is.” But clearly, they’ll all be watching next week’s two NFC Wild Card match-ups: Seattle at Dallas on Saturday Night, and Philadelphia at Chicago on Sunday afternoon.
NFC PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE
Byes: No. 1 Saints, No. 2 Rams
Wild Card Game #1: No. 4 Cowboys vs. No. 5 Seahawks (Saturday Night 7:15 P.M. Central)
Wild Card Game #2: No. 3 Bears vs. No. 6 Eagles (Sunday 3:25 P.M. Central)
(Saints will host the lowest-seeded winner on Sunday, January 13th; Rams will host the highest-seeded winner on Saturday, January 12th)
Assuming that things remain as they are, the Bears will be a heavy favorite to beat the Eagles at home in Chicago next Sunday afternoon, which means that the Saints most likely will face the winner of the game Saturday night between the Cowboys and Seahawks.
However this is the NFL that we’re talking about, so it’s not safe to assume anything at this point.
With that in mind, this morning here at Big Easy Magazine we’re taking a quick look at how each of the possible three teams have gotten to this point, as well how each team did in their most recent match-up against the Saints either this season or in a previous year.
And we’ll begin first with the only team in the entire Playoffs that’s beaten the Saints this year…
#4 SEED (NFC East Division Champs) DALLAS COWBOYS
— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2018
The (10-6) Cowboys won the NFC East Division title to secure their third playoff berth in the past five years, which is no small feat given the shape that they were in just a few months ago.
Taking into consideration that Dallas actually seemed to be dead in the water after a November 5th loss at home to Tennessee left them with a (3-5) record, they’ve since experienced a remarkable turnaround — winning seven of their past eight games to make the postseason — which includes their 13-10 upset victory over the Saints back in Week #13.
However, it is important to note that Dallas has only won just three playoff games since winning Super Bowl XXX (which was over 30 years ago) and just one with current Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett (in 2014).
— COWBOYS ✭ (@AmericasTeam_21) December 31, 2018
It goes without saying that out of the three possible teams, the Cowboys are the one potential opponent that both the Saints themselves as well as Who Dat fans everywhere would love to see come to NOLA and get a whipping inside of the Superdome, especially after that tough loss to them at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas the week after Thanksgiving.
Many observers and analysts feel that the Saints “haven’t quite been themselves” since that loss to the Cowboys, and certainly both the team and Who Dat fans everywhere believe that the best way for New Orleans to exorcise that proverbial demon would be by beating Dallas in the Playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Nevertheless, to emphasize the point: the Cowboys are the only Playoff team that’s beaten the Saints — which is as good a reason as any, to NOT want to have to face them either.
#5 SEED (Top Wild Card team) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The (10-6) Seahawks are headed back to the playoffs in what will be their 7th playoff appearance in head coach Pete Carroll’s nine seasons in the Pacific Northwest. Much like Dallas, Seattle also had some shaky moments earlier in the season, making a rather dramatic comeback from an (0-2) start.
Since the NFL expanded from 10 playoff participants to its current number of 12 teams beginning in 1990, only 28 teams through last year (2017) had made it to the playoffs after starting (0-2). One of those teams just happened to be the 2015 Seattle squad — and now the 2018 version of the Seahawks joins them on the list. Seattle, as with just about every other team heading into the playoffs, has suddenly gotten “hot,” winning 6 out of their last 7 games. That feat was accomplished in spite of their less-than-stellar performance yesterday at home against Arizona in their season finale, where they allowed six sacks and two blocked punts.
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2018
The Saints didn’t play against the Seahawks this season but are very familiar with them, having been knocked out in the playoffs by them twice, and both times at Seattle: in the 2010 Wild Card round (the infamous “Beast Quake” game) and then again in the rain during the 2013 Divisional Round.
New Orleans last played Seattle in the 2016 Season, a 25-20 Saints victory at the Superdome back in Week #8 of that year. Obviously, the Seahawks are still a dangerous team and they’re very capable of pulling off an upset; making them an opponent to be both feared and respected should their path take them to New Orleans — but only if they can first beat the Cowboys on Saturday night.
#6 SEED (2nd Wild Card) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
As most Who Dats already know: New Orleans DEMOLISHED Philadelphia at the Superdome by a score of 48-7 at back in Week #11. But since then, the Eagles have successfully managed to pull off a remarkable late-season rally in what can only be described as a near-desperation inspired effort, to defend their Super Bowl title from last year.
The Eagles finally got the break they had been waiting for all season yesterday afternoon, when Chicago beat Minnesota 24-10. A Vikings win would have given Minnesota the final spot.
But that Bears’ win along with Philly’s 24-0 victory yesterday on the road at Washington against the Redskins, gave them the 6th (and final) playoff spot in the NFC — and ironically just like Dallas and Seattle, it all took place after they had appeared to be out of contention for the post-season just a few short weeks ago. Perhaps even more ironic is that yesterday’s events now send the Eagles to the Windy City next weekend to face the same team that helped them get into the playoffs: the (12-4) and #3 seed Chicago Bears.
— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2018
However, the Eagles’ win yesterday might prove to be a costly one. Back-up quarterback and last year’s Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles left their game yesterday in the 2nd half with a rib injury and was replaced by 3rd string quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who ended up finishing up the game and even threw a touchdown pass of his own.
Foles is directly responsible for Philly’s resurgence, with the Eagles having beaten the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, and then the Redskins yesterday in three successive weeks to earn that final playoff spot; all under Foles’ steady guidance after he took over for injured #1 Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Foles had replaced Wentz famously in a similar manner just a year ago, and led Philadelphia to its one and only Super Bowl title.
Foles is still expected to play against the Bears this upcoming Sunday, and if the Eagles are somehow fortunate enough to escape Chicago with a win, then it would be Philadelphia — and not the winner of the Dallas-Seattle game — that would be making another trip down south to face the Saints in the Divisional Round at the Superdome on Sunday, January 13th.
And given that the Eagles are suddenly “red hot” and are still the defending World Champions until someone finally knocks them off, there are some Who Dat fans who would actually consider them to be the biggest threat for the Saints in their first playoff game — all depending of course on their point of view.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. You can view the rest of his Saints coverage and several feature articles here.