The New Orleans Saints are down, but they aren't out. At least not when the NFL playoff picture is concerned. Because the NFC South is so weak from top to bottom, the Saints are still in the hunt for a division title despite their 4-8 record and last-place standing.
According to the NFL playoff odds at FiveThirtyEight.com, they're going into Week 13's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an 8% chance of qualifying for the postseason. So how does that outlook change with a win, loss, or draw? Let's explore:
What if the Saints win?
A win on the road would send the Saints into their bye week at 5-8, about half a game behind the Buccaneers (who would have a higher winning percentage at 5-7). It would also greatly improve their playoff odds: New Orleans jumps up to 24% in FiveThirtyEight's model with a win this week, reflecting how much more competitive they would be in the NFC South.
Okay, and what if the Saints lose?
A loss effectively dooms their season. The Saints' chances of making it to the playoffs drop to just 0.8%, which is about as low as it gets. Maybe some other things go their way with other NFC South teams collapsing, but it's grim. Only one team figures to make it to the postseason out of this very, very bad division, and a Saints loss would mean a Bucs win, more or less punching their ticket.
Sigh, alright, what if there's a tie? What if?
It hasn't happened since 1972, but the Saints appear to be in the business of ending long-standing symbols of dignity as an organization after their streak of 332 games played without a shutout ended last week (ironically, their last tie also happened against the 49ers, that same opponent). And it wouldn't mean the end of their season, bizarrely enough. A draw would put the Saints' playoff odds at 4%, exactly half of what they started with. That might be preferable to a loss, but as we've illustrated, a win is their only realistic hope.
Story originally appeared on Saints Wire