After going undefeated at home for the second time in three seasons, the New Orleans Saints are going to have to win on the road to make a deep run in the postseason.
The Saints earned a playoff berth for the fourth time in five seasons Sunday with a dominant 42-17 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Their reward will be a wild-card game at 7 p.m. Saturday (on NBC) against the Philadelphia Eagles, who beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-22 on Sunday night to clinch the NFC East title and a playoff spot.
With three losses in their final five regular-season games, the Saints lost an opportunity to claim the NFC South title and No. 2 seed — which would have given them a first-round bye and at least one home game.
Instead, they’ll have to do it on the road, where two things come into play.
The Saints have never won a postseason game away when they’ve been a true road team in five games — winning only at a neutral site in Super Bowl XLIV.
They also lost five of their last six games away from the Superdome this season despite having one of the NFL’s best road marks since the start of the 2009 season.
Earlier Sunday, the Carolina Panthers wrapped up the NFC South title and No. 2 seed in the playoffs, relegating the Saints to a wild-card spot if they could beat the Bucs — which they did.
The Saints (11-5) wrapped up a playoff spot with the easy victory, then had to wait for the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals to finish before finding out where they would be seeded.
The 49ers (12-4) won 23-20 to clinch the No. 5 seed, which sends them to Green Bay for a wild-card game on Sunday. The Packers (8-7-1) earned the No. 4 seed by defeating the Chicago Bears 33-28 for the NFC North title.