So, for the moment, New Orleans still ranks as a top-two team in their conference. That gives them homefield advantage throughout the playoffs (unless they have to go visit the top-ranked Rams) and a first-round bye week. But that can change: the 8-3 Chicago Bears are surging despite missing starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and they get another chance to improve this weekend on the road against the 3-8 New York Giants. If Chicago wins, that will put them just a game behind the Saints in the standings – another slip-up, and New Orleans puts that second overall seed at risk.
Beyond those top three teams, the Cowboys have roared into a 4-game winning streak of their own to seize the NFC East at 7-5. They’re trailed by 6-5 Washington, so there could be a shift there if Dallas stumbles in December. Otherwise, Washington will have to settle for a wild card berth with another 6-win team: currently the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1), but the Seattle Seahawks (6-5) and Carolina Panthers (6-5) are still very much alive.
More than anything else, the Saints must nail down what went wrong in Dallas and correct it. The only games that truly matter are their own, and they need to start winning them again as soon as possible. That’s the only way they can really control their playoff fate.