There are six weeks left in the regular season and four division games remain for New Orleans, including two with second-place Carolina.
But it is looking more and more like the Saints are putting a lock on the NFC South Division race and a top two seed in the conference playoffs.
Drew Brees and the Saints continued their torrid play Sunday, embarrassing the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, 48-7, in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
New Orleans has won nine in a row after starting the season with a home loss and Brees is on a historic roll.
The Saints have scored 144 points in their last three games and at least 30 in all but one of their last eight games. Meanwhile, the Eagles dropped to 4-6 and have lost five of their last seven. Philadelphia would be hopelessly out of the NFC East race except that first-place Washington lost its second in a row Sunday and lost starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season.
Dallas, a winner at Atlanta on a last-second field goal by Brett Maher, moved a game back of the Redskins.
Upset victims Sunday included Carolina, which fell at Detroit and is three games in back of the Saints, and the Los Angeles Chargers, how two games in the loss column behind the Kansas City Chiefs who play at the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night football.
The Eagles aren’t the only “bubble” team that lost Sunday and kept moving away from playoff contention. The Falcons, Bengals, Titans and Jaguars suffered damaging defeats.
A capsule look at Sunday's Week 11 games:
Game of the day
Saints 48, Eagles 7
The scoop: After scoring on nine of 10 possessions last week at Cincinnati, New Orleans scored on eight of its nine against Philadelphia. Four of the TDs came on Drew Brees passes. Brees completed 22 of 30 for 363 yards with no interceptions and no sacks. Mark Ingram (103) and Alvin Kamara (71) led a 173 yards Saints rushing attempt.
Why the Saints won: The Eagles started three-and-out, three-and-out, interception. By the time they settled down they were behind 17-0 and Brees and the Saints were really rolling.
Could be contenders
Steelers 20, Jaguars 16
The scoop: After a first half when they were shut out and had only 66 yards of offense they came on, scoring 14 points in the last 2:28. The winning TD was helped by crucial defensive penalties against the Jags to keep the drive alive. Ben Roethlisberger completed15 of 28 for 265 yards, passed for two touchdowns and ran in for the winning score (barely breaking the plane) from a yard out with 5 seconds left.
Why the Steelers won: Roethlisberger called on his inner Brady to rally Pittsburgh with the help of sensational catches by JuJU Smith-Schuster and tight end Vance McDonald.
Bears 25, Vikings 20
The scoop:Chicago (7-3) strengthened its hold on first place in the NFC North over Minnesota (5-4-1) with the victory. Mitchell Trubisky passed for one touchdown and a two-point conversion, and Cory Parkey kicked three field goals for the Bears, who built a 14-o halftime lead. Kirk Cousins passed to Aldrick Robinson and Stefon Diggs for scores in the final minutes as the Vikings tried desperately to come back.
Why the Bears won: Eddie Jackson’s 27-yard interception return for Chicago for a 22-6 lead with 8:30 to go proved to be the difference.
Texans 23, Redskins 21
The scoop: The Redskins came from 17-7 down, with backup Colt McCoy at quarterback, to go in front 21-20 on a 7-yard run by Adrian Peterson with 11:57 to go. Houston regained the lead on a 54-yard Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal with 7:30 to go. Washington had two series after that. One resulted in a punt from the Redskins' 27 with 4:38 left the other in a missed 63-yard field goal attempt by Dustin Hopkines with 0:03 left.
Why the Texans won: With their ferocious pass rush they distracted Washington QB Alex Smith, sacking him three times and causing two interceptions.
Cowboys 22, Falcons 19
The scoop: Brett Maher kicked his third field goal of the game, from 42 yards, on the final play to win it for Dallas. Matt Bryant kicked four field goals for the Falcons, who had only one touchdown, a 34-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones to tie the game at 19 with 1:52 left.
Why the Cowboys won: They cashed in on the only turnover in the game, an interception by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which he returned 28 yards to the Atlanta 31. Two plays later Ezekiel Elliott ran 23 yards to make it 19-9, Dallas.
Ravens 24, Bengals 21
The scoop: Justin Tucker's 24-yard field goal with 8:12 left decided this one. There was no scoring after that. Rookie Lamar Jackson started at quarterback for injured Joe Flacco and ran for 117 yards on 27 attempts for Baltimore. Andy Dalton passed for two Bengals TDs, but couldn't get them into the end zone in two chances after Tucker's winner.
Why the Ravens won: Randy Bullock was wide right on a 52-yard field goal try with 2:45 left and the Bengals turned the ball over on downs at their own 37 with 1:42 left.
Might be contenders
Colts 38, Titans 20
The scoop: Indy is coming on with four wins in a row. It all started with the rout of the Bills a month ago. Andrew Luck passed for three touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton caught two TD passes, one for 68 yards that made it 17-0 in the second quarter. Titans QB Marcus Mariota left the game with an injury in the second half and Blaine Gabbert took over and passed one score.
Why the Colts won: They reached the Red Zone five times and scored four TDs and one field goal.
Broncos 23, Chargers 22
The scoop: Playing at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., their home field, the Chargers could not make a 19-7 third quarter lead stand up. Von Miller's interception and 42-yard return to the L.A. 18 started the comeback. Denver drove 73 yards for a 2-yard Phillip Lindsay touchdown run to take a 20-19 lead. Michael Badgley kicked a 30- yard field goal to give the Chargers the lead again but Denver drove 76 yards to set up a 34-yard Brandon McManus field goal to win it on the last play.
Why the Broncos won: Holding the Bolts to field goals on their first two offensive series and getting an interception on the third paid off in the end.
Lions 20, Carolina 19
The scoop: Detroit gave up the game's first touchdown on the first of three Cam Newton scoring passes but never trailed again. Matthew Stafford's 19-yard pass to Kenny Golladay broke a 13-all tie with 5:13 left. Newton hit rookie D.J. Moore with an 8-yard pass with 1:07 left. The Panthers went for two and Newton's pass attempt failed.
Why the Lions won: After giving 16 sacks the previous two games combined, they allowed Stafford to go down only once, and he had no interceptions.
Giants 38, Buccaneers 35
The scoop: Jameis Winston took over for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched after throwing interceptions on three straight possessions. Winston nearly brought the Bucs back from 31-14, throwing TD passes to Adam Humphries and Mike Evans late in the fourth quarter. Rookie Saquon Barkley scored three times for New York, twice on short runs as he gained 142 yards in 27 carries. Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants had 74 receiving yards on four receptions, one for a TD
Why the Giants won: They "held" Tampa Bay to 510 yards of offense but four Bucs interceptions helped. It was the second week in a row that Tampa Bay gained more than 500 yards and lost.
Dog of the day
Raiders 23, Cardinals 21
The scoop: Oakland drove 63 yards in the last 1:53, then Daniel Carlson kicked his third field goal of the game from 35 yards to win it as time expired. Josh Rosen completed only 9 of 20 passes for 136 yards for Arizona, but had three touchdown throws. One was for 59 yards to rookie Christian Kirk. Derek Carr passed for the two Oakland touchdowns.
Why the Raiders won: Except for the Cardinals' three touchdown drives they managed only went three-and-out or turned the ball over their other 10 series.
News wire services contributed to this report.