NFC South Playoff Scenarios and Standings: Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers Still in Race Entering Week 13

The NFC South features playoff scenarios galore. The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs are still competing for the division title, but Wild Card slots remain open.

The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dominated the NFC South for the past six seasons, and while both clubs remain in the playoff mix, neither holds first place in the division entering Week 13. That honor belongs to the Atlanta Falcons, who took the NFC South lead by defeating the Saints last Sunday.

How will the division shake out over the rest of the NFL campaign, and how could the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers’ playoff chances shift based on Week 13’s results?

NFC South Playoff Scenarios Ahead of Week 13

Atlanta Falcons’ Playoff Chances

While the Falcons have the best odds to win the NFC South, they still only have a 52% chance of making the playoffs, per the New York Times’ projection model.

Atlanta has a 47% likelihood of grabbing the division title — the 5% delta between their playoff chances and their NFC South crown hopes suggests the Falcons are unlikely to be involved in the NFC’s tight Wild Card race.

The club’s win against the Saints in Week 12 gave the two teams identical 5-6 records, but Atlanta is now 3-0 in the division while New Orleans is 1-2. It’s entirely possible that the NFC South will come down to Week 18, when the Falcons and Saints are set to square off in a regular-season finale that could decide who goes to the playoffs.

But how could Atlanta’s odds change in Week 13?

In a best-case scenario where the Falcons defeat the New York Jets, the Saints lose to the Detroit Lions, and the Carolina Panthers upset the Buccaneers, Atlanta’s playoff chances would jump almost 30 percentage points to 71%.

On the other hand, if Atlanta loses while New Orleans and Tampa Bay win, its odds will fall to one in three.

Here’s the Falcons’ remaining schedule:

  • Week 13: at NYJ
  • Week 14: vs. TB
  • Week 15: at CAR
  • Week 16: vs. IND
  • Week 17: at CHI
  • Week 18: at NO

New Orleans Saints’ Playoff Chances

The Saints let a tremendous opportunity slip by when they lost to the Falcons last week. New Orleans’ chances at making the playoffs (43%) now trail Atlanta’s by nine percentage points, while their odds of winning the division (34%) are 13 points behind the Falcons.

Dennis Allen’s club technically controls its own destiny. Because the Saints and Falcons have matching 5-6 records, New Orleans can become the NFC South champion by winning out, including in its regular-season finale against Atlanta.

MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

The Saints and Falcons both have three divisional games remaining, but most observers would probably prefer Atlanta’s other games (at NYJ, vs. IND, at CHI) to New Orleans’ (vs. DET, vs. NYG, at LAR).

An upset over the Lions today would significantly increase the Saints’ playoff chances, shifting them to 62%. An accompanying Falcons loss would help, but not by much — roughly six additional percentage points.

Here’s the Saints’ remaining schedule:

  • Week 13: vs. DET
  • Week 14: vs. CAR
  • Week 15: vs. NYG
  • Week 16: at LAR
  • Week 17: at TB
  • Week 18: vs. ATL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Playoff Chances

Everything was going Tampa Bay’s way through the first month of the season. Baker Mayfield’s career rejuvenation, combined with the Buccaneers’ outstanding defense, helped the club to a 3-1 record entering its Week 5 bye.

But TB has lost six of seven since, including a Week 7 defeat to the Falcons. Entering Week 13, the Bucs have just a 20% chance of winning the NFC South and 7% odds to earn a Wild Card berth.

Tampa Bay does have one crucial advantage — it gets to play the Panthers twice over its final six games. Carolina has been the NFL’s worst team in 2023 and just fired head coach Frank Reich, so Todd Bowles has to be hoping his club can sweep the 1-10 Panthers.

A Buccaneers win over Carolina in Week 3 won’t make much of a difference on its own, as Tampa Bay’s playoff chances would only shift from 27% to 31%. Add in Falcons and Saints losses and the Bucs’ odds still improve to just 36%. They’ll need to string together a few wins to truly get back in the race.

Here’s the Buccaneers’ remaining schedule:

  • Week 13: vs. CAR
  • Week 14: at ATL
  • Week 15: at GB
  • Week 16: vs. JAX
  • Week 17: vs. NO
  • Week 18: at CAR

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more! 

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