Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
Head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will have their hands full in the Saints' remaining five games.
The five remaining games on the Saints' schedule form a grueling gauntlet that no team in the NFL would wish for.
The Saints' ultimate goal is, of course, to reach the Super Bowl. Therefore, their primary regular-season objective is to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC, thus making their road to the Super Bowl much more manageable.
Their remaining slate is far and away the most challenging obstacle standing in the way of that objective.
For starters, the next opponent is the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks, who host New Orleans in a titanic matchup next Monday night. This contest may very well decide who gets the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but it won't be the end of the Saints' worries.
Winning the division is usually the chief goal in the NFL, and the Saints have their hands full on that front as well. Garnering the top seed in the NFC may be necessary just to win the NFC South. Yes, the Carolina Panthers are that good, and New Orleans must face them just six days after the trip to Seattle.
Cam Newton and company aren't just nipping at the Saints' heels anymore; they're breathing down their necks. Going into Sunday, the Panthers are just a game and a half back of New Orleans. The game against Seattle may hold tremendous value, but the two contests with Carolina are also highly important.
In addition to the three matchups with these two NFC heavyweights, the Saints also must travel to St. Louis. This game is sandwiched between the two showdowns with the Panthers, which makes it a classic trap game. The Rams won't be pushovers themselves and will in all likelihood put forth their best efforts against the Saints.
Last on the schedule is Tampa Bay. Yes, the Buccaneers are 2-8, but they've won two in a row. They also played New Orleans down to the wire in the first meeting between the two teams, and they'll look to finish their disappointing season on a strong note.
The Saints' remaining schedule presents a tall task for sure, but if they can maneuver through each contest one at a time, they may be rewarded with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.