What it will take to make the playoffs

For the second week in a row, the Saints have an opportunity to take care of business with regard to their postseason destiny.

Last week, needing a victory against the St. Louis Rams to lock down one of the NFC’s six playoff spots, the Saints stumbled and were handed a 27-16 loss by the Rams.

On Sunday, they’ll get another shot to get it done when they face the Carolina Panthers in Bank of America Stadium.

Despite last week’s setback, the Saints (10-4) can reap major rewards by beating the Panthers (10-4) when they meet for the second time in 15 days. The Saints won 31-13 on Dec. 8 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Another victory against the surging Panthers, who’ve won nine of their past 10 games after a 1-3 start, would give the Saints the NFC South title and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs — and first-round bye that goes with it.

That’s the best way for the Saints to punch their postseason ticket and the route they would prefer to take, of course, although there is one other way they can get in without tie games becoming part of the equation.

Regardless of what happens against the Panthers, the Saints could get in if the Arizona Cardinals (9-5) lose either of their two remaining games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

So Saints fans will be rooting for a win against the Panthers in their noon start. But, if that fails, there is another way if the Cardinals lose to the Seahawks in a late-afternoon game.

Playoff scenarios

  • Saints clinch NFC South and a first-round bye with:

1. New Orleans win

  • Saints clinch playoff spot with:

1. Arizona loss OR

2. New Orleans tie + San Francisco loss or tie OR

3. New Orleans tie + Arizona tie OR

4. San Francisco loss + Arizona tie

  • Panthers clinch a playoff spot with:

1. Carolina win OR

2. Carolina tie + Arizona loss OR

3. Carolina tie + San Francisco loss OR

4. Arizona loss + San Francisco loss