I know many people are still upset with the Saints result, as am I, but if we cut the "This team is pathetic, we aren't going anywhere" talk and just look at the numbers, let's see how we line up with the other teams competing for the wildcard.
Week 11 - Bye
I figure the Saints have to drop a game between the Giants and the Lions, and I think we win on the road against them, but let's just look at it worst case here. Regardless of that second result, however, the Saints will win the NFC South with 13-3, 12-4 or 11-5, as they hold all the tie breakers. If they miraculously drop to 10-6 then we have a shot on tiebreakers, but that's not going to happen so why bother.
Predicted finish - 12-4, NFC SOUTH WINNER
Detroit have the awful position of still having two games against the Packers, plus the Saints. If they beat the Saints, well hey - that does us a huge favor. If not, it basically kills their wildcard chances. I've put the Oakland game as a loss because I figure they'll drop to either San Diego or Oakland, and the Raiders seem the best bet there. That loss would put them at 9-7, or if they don't drop those games it takes them to 10-6.
Predicted finish - 9-7 OR 10-6, Miss playoffs
The fact that the Falcons have the head to head tiebreaker here means that, if we both end up with the same record, we'll progress ahead of Detroit.
There is no universe in which the Bears don't take the first wildcard. They own all the tiebreakers as well, if they somehow drop more games and the Falcons match their record.
Predicted Finish - 12-4 Wildcard #1
I think the losses here are fairly self explainatory, and I don't see them dropping to anybody else. Maybe the Bucs could help us out and beat them, but I doubt it. 9-7 for the Cowboys.
In terms of tiebreakers, there is no head to head, and the Cowboys have a conference record of 7-5 in this situation.
Predicted Finish - 9-7, Miss playoffs
The Giants look to have the NFC East covered, with the only real challenge coming from Dallas. If they beat New Orleans, which I think they will, then they can afford an extra loss before being too converned with Dallas. I think they have to play to the end of their season though, with no resting, therefore I've still got them beating Dallas in week 17.
Predicted Finish - 11-5, NFC EAST WINNERS
Let's just say, for arguments sake, we beat the Saints. In my mind, that puts us at 11-5, guaranteed for the second wildcard. Moving on from that, let's add some more losses in. The first obvious loss to add in is vs New Orleans, bumping us down to 10-6. In that case, we'll have a 7-5 Conference record, like the Cowboys. 10-6 still nabs us the wildcard if all the above are true. If we bump down to 9-7, and the loss is to the Titans or the Jags, we're still sitting with a 7-5 conference record. In that case, either the Lions progress on record (10-6) or if the Lions are at 9-7 then it comes down to strength of victory tiebreaker between us and the Cowboys. That's just unpredictable. If we finish 9-7 with two losses to NFC teams from here on in, we're done. Ever the optimist, I'm saying we finish 10-6, losing to New Orleans and Houston.
Predicted Finish - 10-6, Wildcard #2
In summary I've got the following playoff situation;
#1 seed - Packers
#2 seed -Saints
#3 seed - 49ers
#4 seed - Giants
#5 seed - 1st wildcard - Bears (12-4)
#6 seed - 2nd wildcard - Falcons (10-6)
I don't think anything I've written here is too unrealistic, and I'm still firmly looking for playoffs. Is it an uphill battle for the division? Yes, we're done in the South, let it go. Is it going to be tough getting the wildcard? Yes. But it is still very, very achievable. We have all the valuable tie-breakers that we can measure (strength of victory being a complete coin flip). Don't give it all away now guys. Bitter defeat against the Saints, sure, but we can still go 10-6 very realistically and end up in the playoffs. Rise Up guys, now is not the time to be throwing it in.