Through the first 13 weeks of the regular season, it looked like the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers would run away with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NFC.
All of a sudden, both teams sit at 10-3, and the battle will likely go down to the wire.
Here are three reasons why the Saints should be able to clinch the No. 2 seed over San Francisco.
the 49ers have some tough games down the stretch, while the Saints look like they can win out very easily.
This Monday night the 49ers play a Pittsburgh Steelers team that's been on a hot streak; the way it's performed over the last few weeks, Pittsburgh should be able to win this game.
Then they play a determined Seattle Seahawks team that is scratching and clawing for a wild-card spot and will be on top of its game before finishing off the season with a snoozer against the St. Louis Rams.
I see this group finishing 1-2, maybe even 2-1, which won't be enough for a No. 2 seed if you look at the Saints' remaining games.
The Saints play a 2-11 Minnesota Vikings team, an Atlanta Falcons team that will likely end up as a wild card at best and a Carolina Panthers team that just doesn't have the level of consistency to defeat a powerhouse like the Saints.
With the streak the Saints are on, there is no reason to think that they won't finish up 3-0. The only team that might give them problems is the Falcons, and I just don't see how the Falcons can pull of the monumental upset in the Superdome.
With the exception of the Rams game, the Saints have been competitive in every game, and they usually end up on top.
They have been riding a five-game win streak, and they've won six of their last seven.
Meanwhile, the 49ers' momentum has gone down dramatically. After starting 9-1 and silencing the critics, they lost critical games to the Baltimore Ravens and Cardinals in the last three games.
The two teams are going in opposite directions, and that might be enough to doom the 49ers and send the Saints to the promise land.
Bottom line is, the 49ers don't have the experience and pure talent to rival the Saints.
The Saints have so many weapons on offense it's scary. They have a three-headed running attack in Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. They have a thousand options at receiver, from Marques Colston to Jimmy Graham, and they have a legendary quarterback in the unstoppable Drew Brees.
Yes, the 49ers do have a few nice pieces on offense, Alex Smith does what he can to get by, Vernon Davis is a reliable guy, Frank Gore is a game-changer, but they lack the firepower the Saints possess.
Defensively, the 49ers do have the upper hand over the Saints, but if the Saints get average performances every week out of their defense, their offense will win games.
Then there's experience. The Saints are a bunch of veterans in their prime that have been there and done that—they can handle the spotlight. We have yet to see that out of Alex Smith.
When you weigh the strengths and weakness of both teams, it's clear the Saints are much more prepared to win down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The 49ers have had a nice run this year, but we still don't know what to expect out of them in crunch time, while the Saints have shown what they can do in crunch time.
What do you guys think? Do the 49ers shake off these last three weeks and win out, or do the Saints continue their hot streak into January?