Let’s be blunt about what we want from the NFC playoffs: The Saints to lose. New Orleans fans have, over the last few seasons, weaponized pettiness to the point where no accomplishment or Falcons failure passes without comment, and that disdain is very mutual. We don’t want the Saints to go to the Super Bowl in Atlanta, and we definitely don’t want them to win it.
Viewed through that lens, the NFC playoffs are just a question of who has the best shot of beating the Saints, and our rooting interest pours toward that team. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card round with the Saints and Rams off this weekend.
Saturday: #5 Seattle at #4 Dallas, 8:15 p.m. ET
Both of these teams could, at the very least, give the Saints a run for their money. It seems incredible after their lousy start to the year, but Dallas has turned into a team no one wants to play thanks to a sometimes suffocating defense. They started New Orleans’ mini-skid when they stunningly held the Saints to under 200 yards, with the Saints mostly playing greatly diminished football since being punched in the mouth by Dallas. There’s plenty of reason to think the Cowboys can do so again with New Orleans in a bit of a rut and kicking off two weeks of rust on offense, as they’ve scored over 30 points just once in the last five weeks.
The problem, of course, is that they’ll only play New Orleans if they win and the Bears do too. The optimal nightmare path for the Saints is probably Dallas and then Chicago, if they do make it by the Cowboys, so I’m fine with that outcome generally. Dallas is certainly capable of taking care of this Seattle offense, though Russell Wilson is so good (and at this point, maybe even underrated) that he’ll provide a legitimate challenge even for this re-tooled D.
Could the Seahawks be a problem for New Orleans, too? Sure. They have a surprisingly potent offense and their defense has rebounded, which means they can control the tempo of the game and keep the Saints at bay. I’ll take either team here if it comes to it, but I like Dallas’ chances a bit better because they’ve already shown they can shut down this offense.
#6 Philadelphia at #3 Chicago, 4:40 p.m. ET
It’s amazing that Philly clawed their way back here. In many ways, their season reminds you of the 2017 Falcons year, when an NFC Super Bowl team looked lousy for long stretches of the year but was still good enough to make the postseason. For that reason alone, I won’t be guilty of taking Philadelphia lightly.
Their opponent isn’t going to be an easy out at all. The Bears have been great under Matt Nagy, with Mitch Trubisky doing enough to keep them in games and the defense doing more than enough to win them. This Chicago defense has been hell for a lot of good offenses in 2019, and I like their chances of putting the brakes on New Orleans as much as any other team in their way. I also think that Philly with Nick Foles at the helm is going to have trouble putting up points, so if the Bears offense is at least halfway competent they should win this.
Please let one of these teams beat the Saints.