The New Orleans Saints are officially the first team to secure a playoff berth. The Saints had little trouble early with the Atlanta Falcons, but had to survive two straight successful onside kicks to beat them 26-18 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Saints held on to get revenge for the Falcons win in New Orleans earlier this year.
With the win, the Saints improve to 10-2 and have clinched the NFC South. Even if they lose their remaining four games, New Orleans would have the tiebreaker edge over 5-6 Carolina. The Saints won the first game between the two teams and would be tied 1-1 if they lost out. However, the Saints can finish no worse than 4-2 within their division while Carolina can finish no better than 3-3.
The bigger task for New Orleans now is to secure a first round bye. They are now a game and a half up on the 8-3 Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed. They are a half game back of the San Francisco 49ers for the top seed. If the 49ers lose this weekend to the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints move into the top seed. Even if Seattle wins to take over first place in the NFC West, the Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker with them. Additionally, the Saints host the 49ers next week, so that could shake this up further.
On the other side of Thanksgiving, the Falcons were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. They’ve been out of playoff contention for a while now, but the Saints win made it official.