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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) talk strategy against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

The Saints season that no one saw coming is on the verge of a playoff berth. 

A berth New Orleans could clinch this week. With a win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night and a little bit of help on Sunday, the Saints could lock up a playoff spot. 

What's surprising is how simple the process of locking up a playoff spot could be. According to the NFL, there are six ways the Saints can clinch a playoff berth on Sunday if New Orleans takes care of business on Thursday night.

  1. A New Orleans win, a Carolina loss or tie to the Minnesota Vikings and a loss or tie from Dallas, which plays the woebegone New York Giants.
  2. A New Orleans win, a Carolina loss or tie and a Detroit loss or tie in its game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  3. A New Orleans win, a Lions loss or tie and a Green Bay loss or tie in the Packers' game against the Cleveland Browns.
  4. A New Orleans win, a Carolina loss and the Saints clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over Dallas, which depends on the results of several games.
  5. A New Orleans win, a Carolina tie and the Saints clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over Dallas and Green Bay.
  6. A New Orleans win, a Carolina tie, a Green Bay loss and the Saints clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over Dallas. 

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.