Brian Allee-Walsh

Plenty of unfinished business left for playoff-bound Saints

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93), defensive end George Johnson (90) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93), defensive end George Johnson (90) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. AP

The NFC road to Super Bowl LII goes through the City of Brotherly Love, since the Carson Wentz-less Philadelphia Eagles own the No. 1 seed after slipping past the turnover-plagued Oakland Raiders 19-10 on Christmas night.

We know that for sure.

We don’t know much else in the NFC.

The remaining five seeds — 2 through 6 — are still to be determined and that includes where the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints finally land once the regular-season music stops on New Year’s Eve.

At the moment, they reside at No. 4 NFC Street and would host a wild card game the weekend of Jan. 6-7 but they also could wind up at No. 3 or No. 5 once the dust settles Sunday.

Here’s one man’s opinion of how Week 17 plays out and the final NFC seedings one through six:

1. Philadelphia — They are top dog regardless what happens against Dallas, earning a first-round bye and the right to host a divisional round game and the NFC championship if still breathing.

2. Minnesota — They will beat visiting Chicago to clinch the second seed, earning a first-round bye and the right to host a divisional round game.

3. New Orleans — They will go on the road and defeat Tampa Bay to win the NFC South, then move up to No. 3 when San Francisco and en fuego quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo upset the LA Rams in LA-LA Land.

4. Los Angeles Rams — The NFC West champs will fall to No. 4 after losing at home to the 49ers.

5. Carolina — The Panthers will beat Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and remain at No. 5.

6. Seattle — The Seahawks will claim the final playoff berth with a home win against Arizona and a Falcons loss.

Under Plan A, the Saints (No. 3) would host Seattle (No. 6) and the LA Rams (No. 4) would host Carolina (No. 5) on Wildcard Weekend.

That’s the NFL world according to Allee-Walsh.

But there are other possibilities to consider:

▪  The Saints could remain at No. 4 and host the No. 5 Panthers in a wild card game. The Saints have swept Carolina, winning 34-13 in Charlotte, North Carolina, in Week 3 and 31-21 in New Orleans in Week 13. Beating the Panthers three times in one season would be a tall task.

▪  With a Saints loss at Tampa Bay and a Panthers victory at Atlanta, Carolina would win the NFC South and move to No. 4 with New Orleans falling to No. 5. In this scenario, the Panthers would host the Saints in a wildcard game. The mere thought of that should give Who Dat Nation nightmares.

▪  Should the Saints move to No. 3 and the Falcons claim the No. 6 seed with a win against Carolina, then New Orleans would host Atlanta in a wild card game. The Saints and Falcons have split their home-and-home games this season.

There is one more scenario, one in which Carolina could leapfrog all the way to No. 2 and claim a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round.

That would require the Panthers winning the NFC South by beating Atlanta and New Orleans losing at Tampa Bay. Then, the Vikings and Rams also would have to lose, elevating Carolina to No. 2.

Of all the scenarios, that seems the most far-fetched and highly unlikely from happening.

Then again, never say never.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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