Haslett: Saints focused on next step in season

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 18, 2000

NEW ORLEANS – After finishing last season 3-13, most people agreed that an act of God would be necessary for New Orleans to reach the playoffs in 2000.

Maybe there’s a reason the team is called the Saints.

New Orleans all but guaranteed a trip to the the postseason Sunday with a 23-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints need only a loss by the St. Louis Rams or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to clinch the sixth playoff berth in New Orleans’ 34-year history. And as luck (or a higher power) would have it, the Rams and Bucs play each other today on Monday Night Football, meaning only an unlikely tie could prevent New Orleans from clinching at least a wildcard spot today.

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But with Minnesota (11-4) losing to Green Bay (8-7) 33-28 Sunday, the Saints have an opportunity to clinch not only a playoff berth, but the NFC West division title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

&uot;There are three levels in this game,&uot; Saints coach Jim Haslett said. &uot;Make the playoffs, get seeded, and then win the damn thing. We made the playoffs today. Now we see where we’ll be seeded.&uot;

If the Saints beat the Rams this Sunday, New Orleans will win the NFC West title. The Saints can still win the title with a loss Sunday if the Rams lose today, however. The Saints and Rams would each be 10-6 and would be 1-1 against each other, but the Saints’ division record of 7-1 would edge the Rams for the title.

But if the Saints can win the title outright by defeating the Rams and the Vikings lose to the Indianapolis Colts (9-6) Sunday, all three division leaders – the Saints, Vikings and New York Giants – would have overall records of 11-5.

Since the Saints have not played the Giants or the Vikings, each team’s division record would determine seeding. At 8-0, the Saints would be the No. 1 seed, have a first-round playoff bye and have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. But it all starts with this week’s home match-up versus St. Louis.

&uot;It’s a big game,&uot; said defensive tackle La’Roi Glover after the Atlanta game. &uot;Maybe bigger than this one. We’re in the driver’s seat now, but when you’re the driver, there’s always somebody looking to take you out.&uot;