NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Saints missed their chance to be the first to clinch a playoff berth this season.
Now, the Los Angeles Rams will give it a go.
A win Sunday against the Lions (4-7) would give the Rams the NFC West title. A win also would put them a full game ahead of the Saints in the race for the top spot in the NFC playoff picture.
The Saints (10-2) hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams (10-1) by beating them a few weeks back in New Orleans, but that won’t matter if the Rams stay ahead of them in the standings.
With the Saints off this Sunday, the noon Sunday game between the Rams and Lions is one of a few the Saints will need to keep an eye on.
Another one is with the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears, whose 8-3 record has them one loss behind the Saints. The Bears are especially concerning because of their 6-1 record in conference games, which would be good enough for a tiebreaker edge on the Saints if they had identical records.
That could prove meaningful if they’re tied for a first-round bye.
The Bears play noon Sunday against the Giants (3-8) in New Jersey.
Another game this Sunday to monitor involves the Carolina Panthers. At 6-5, the second-place Panthers will look to close the gap behind the first-place Saints to three games. Doing that could put the Panthers on track to make those two games between the Saints and Panthers in the final three weeks of the season have some meaning.
The Panthers play at noon Sunday against the Buccaneers (3-8) in Tampa. You can watch that match-up on FOX 8.
Next week, the Saints play at the Bucs and the Rams play in prime time against the Bears in Chicago. That game could significantly alter the playoff race no matter which team wins.
NOLA.com-The Times-Picayune contributed to this story.