Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is not pleased with an official's call during the game against the New York Giants at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

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METAIRIE, La. - After five straight losses, the New Orleans Saints are on the outside looking in for the playoff picture — but FiveThirtyEight hasn't dashed all hopes of the Saints somehow making the postseason.

As of Monday morning, the Saints (5-7) have a 14% shot at making the playoffs, up from 11% after their loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

The NFC's standings, as of Monday morning, are:

1, Arizona Cardinals (NFC West), 10-2

2, Green Bay Packers (NFC North), 9-3

3, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC South), 9-3

4, Dallas Cowboys (NFC East), 8-4

5, Los Angeles Rams (NFC West), 8-4

6. Washington Football Team (NFC East), 6-6

7. San Francisco 49ers (NFC West), 6-6

The teams on the outside looking in are the Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), the Minnesota Vikings (5-7), the Carolina Panthers (5-7), the Atlanta Falcons (5-7) and the Saints (5-7).

That means, if the season were to end today, the Saints would finish last in the NFC South based on tiebreakers. A last-place NFC South finish has only happened for the Saints once in the Sean Payton era: 2008 when the Saints finished last with an 8-8 record.

Why do the Saints still have a chance?

To put it bluntly, the Saints have a chance because so few teams have risen above the others. The division winners have all but been set, but the race for the last two wildcard spots is going to be a roller coaster with two teams at 6-6, one team at 6-7 and four teams at 5-7.

Two of the teams that have 5-7 records still have to play the Saints (Panthers, Falcons) and the Panthers have only played two division games so far, so this logjam will clear itself up in the next few weeks.

But right now, the Saints have lost to both the Panthers and the Falcons, so that's why they're No. 12 in the playoff picture, as opposed to No. 9, No. 10 or No. 11. The Panthers have the edge over the Falcons because of their head-to-head result on Oct. 31.

What needs to happen for the Saints to get a better chance?

First off, they need to start winning again.

A loss to the New York Jets, per FiveThirtyEight, drops the Saints' chances to make the playoffs to just 5%. A win bumps that up to 20%. Of course, those numbers will fluctuate dependent on other results around the league.

Let's say they somehow go on a tear late in the season and pull off wins against the Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their chances skyrocket to 49%. A third straight win against the Miami Dolphins puts them at 66% and a fourth-straight win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 17 bumps them up to an 83% shot. For the sake of this exercise, let's say they win out and beat Atlanta, too. That would give New Orleans a 10-7 record and would more than likely put New Orleans in the playoff picture.

However, the odds of New Orleans winning out aren't likely.

If they go 4-1 down the stretch with that one loss coming to Tampa Bay, New Orleans has a 65% chance of making the playoffs.

Two losses, a 3-2 record for the rest of the season, don't eliminate them entirely, but the numbers get less and less in the Saints' favor.

What do Saints fans have to cheer for?

The easiest answer here is for any team above positioned for a wildcard spot to lose. Even if most of them lost this week, though, it wouldn't immediately place the Saints in the top seven, but it would help clear the congestion ahead of New Orleans as the finish line draws closer.

A reminder of the teams that are in play for the three wildcard spots and who they play in Week 14:

5, Los Angeles Rams (8-4), at Arizona Cardinals (10-2)

The currently fifth-seeded Los Angeles Rams have bounced between wins and losses the last few weeks, getting a dominant win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. However, they go to Arizona for a rematch against the NFC's leader in hopes to avenge a Week 4 loss.

6. Washington Football Team (6-6), vs. Dallas Cowboys (8-4)

The Washington Football Team has won four straight, with the last three victories coming as single-digit wins. Washington hasn't played Dallas yet this season, with their second matchup of the year coming in just two weeks. Dallas had lost two straight before coming into New Orleans on Thursday.

7. San Francisco 49ers (6-6), vs. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)

The 49ers were on a tear for the last month, winning three straight before they lost to the flailing Seahawks last week. The AFC North's Bengals have had an up-and-down season as well, steamrolling the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, but getting thumped by the Los Angeles Chargers last week.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

The Eagles are on their bye week in Week 14. Since beating New Orleans two weeks back, they've gone 1-1 against the New York teams, losing to the Giants but beating the Jets. They play the Washington Football team in Week 15.

9. Minnesota Vikings (5-7) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1)

The Vikings appear to be approaching free fall, as they're on a two-game losing streak and are coming off of a loss to the previously winless Detroit Lions. The Steelers have also been off the mark lately, tying with the Lions four weeks back, which spurred two straight losses before they rebounded this past week against the Baltimore Ravens for a win.

10. Carolina Panthers (5-7) vs. 11. Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

The Panthers are coming off their bye week having fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Since Carolina's hot 3-0 start, they've gone 2-7 and have lost three of the last four against the Patriots, the WFT and the Dolphins, but somehow steamrolled the Cardinals. The Falcons have been up and down as of late, going 1-3 in their last four games after their win over the Saints.

12. New Orleans Saints (5-7) at New York Jets (3-9)

The Saints need a win here. They haven't lost six straight since 2005. A loss to the Jets would be one of the final nails in the coffin for their playoff hopes.

What is the NFL draft order right now?

For those not wanting the playoffs and want to capitalize on the less-than-optimal season for draft position, the Saints currently are in line for the No. 11 pick in the 2022 draft. Here's the top 11 spots in the draft, as it stands, per Tankathon:

1, Detroit Lions (1-10-1)

2, Houston Texans (2-10)

3, Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

4, New York Jets (3-9)

5, New York Jets (via Seattle), (4-8)

6, New York Giants (4-8)

7, New York Giants (via Chicago), (4-8)

8, Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

9, Carolina Panthers (5-7)

10, Minnesota Vikings (5-7)

11, New Orleans Saints (5-7)

This article originally ran on ktbs.com.

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