NFL Playoff Picture: How Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints Can Clinch the Final NFC Wild Card Berth in Week 18

It all comes down to Week 18 for Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints. The good news is that the Saints are still mathematically alive in the NFL playoff hunt

However, not all is well in New Orleans. A simple win over the rival Atlanta Falcons won’t be enough to ensure Sean Payton’s team reaches the postseason for a fifth straight year.

Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints can clinch a wild-card berth in Week 18

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill and teammates in 2021.
Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints need help to reach the 2021 NFL Playoffs | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Let’s get the most straightforward part out of the way. The Saints cannot reach the 2021 NFL Playoffs if they do not defeat the Falcons on Sunday afternoon; a tie isn’t good enough. 

Even if the Saints do their part, they still need help in the NFC. Much like how New Orleans must win on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers must lose to the Los Angeles Rams. Again, a tie won’t work here.

If the Saints win and the 49ers lose, the Saints will earn the NFC’s No. 7 seed. New Orleans cannot obtain the No. 6 seed, which will instead go to the Philadelphia Eagles if the 49ers do not qualify for the postseason.

Things are that simple. For what it’s worth, the Rams are not expected to rest their starters because they still have a chance at winning the NFC West and securing a home game in the Wild Card Round.

Atlanta narrowly escaped New Orleans with a victory in November

The Saints entered play on Nov. 7, 2021, at 5-2 and fresh off a shocking home victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian prepared to make his first start with the Saints in place of Jameis Winston, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week earlier.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons had no plans of letting the Saints move to 6-2, however, and led 24-6 with 10:39 left in the fourth quarter. Then came the Falcons’ latest collapse, led by Sieman’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns. New Orleans took a 25-24 lead with 1:01 left and failed to convert a two-point conversion.

On the Falcons’ first play from scrimmage, Ryan connected with running back/receiver Cordarelle Patterson on a 64-yard gain and set Atlanta up at New Orleans’ 11-yard line.

After running back Mike Davis nearly fumbled the game away, the Falcons sent kicker Younghoe Koo in with three seconds left to win the game. Koo connected, giving the Falcons a 27-25 victory.

Ryan completed 23 of 30 passes that day for 343 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Hill, who is expected to start for New Orleans in Week 18, completed both passes for 33 yards and ran for four yards on his lone attempt. Saints star Alvin Kamara ran for 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and turned four receptions into 54 yards.

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If the Saints do reach the postseason, they’re locked into a wild-card spot and playing on the road next week. They’ll play the No. 2 seed, which will go to one of four teams: Arizona, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Tampa Bay.

New Orleans swept Tampa Bay, winning 36-27 on Halloween and 9-0 on Dec. 19. Although Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is 0-4 against the Saints in the last two regular seasons, he left New Orleans with a victory in the 2020 NFC Divisional Round.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense intercepted Hill four times in a 27-17 victory on Thursday, Dec. 3. New Orleans is 3-1 since that primetime showdown.

The Saints did not face the Cardinals or Rams this season.

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