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Halo 10-21-2009 01:01 AM

Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead
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Let’s forget all of this one-game-at-a-time, there’s-a-long-way-to-go, don’t-take-the-cheese stuff. You’re a Saints fan, and your team is 5-0 - and a really impressive 5-0 - so go ahead and look ahead.

Sure, this week’s game at Miami is scary – the Saints could have swelled heads, have a letdown after knocking off previously undefeated teams in consecutive games, and they’re facing a wild card in the Wildcat formation. But this team has gotten better each week, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to suddenly regress against a team that can’t beat it unless it regresses.

New Orleans has been the most impressive team in the NFL thus far and around these parts you don’t get too many chances in October to realistically speculate about a division title, a playoff bye, and homefield advantage in the playoffs. So enjoy.

Saints fans were introduced to these concepts in 2006 when their team started 3-0, won the NFC South with a 10-6 record, got a playoff bye for the first time, took advantage of homefield advantage to beat Philadelphia in the divisional round, then lost at Chicago in its first trip to the NFC Championship.

The only team against which the Saints could have played a road playoff game was the top-seeded Bears and that’s who they played for a trip to the Super Bowl. Who knows if the outcome would have been different if the game had been played in the Superdome, but a home game surely would have been better than a road game. Getting a bye and homefield advantage is huge.

Though the Saints have played only five games, they have put themselves in a position that they – or at least their fans – can already start thinking about these post-season possibilities. So enjoy.

Right now, the NFC appears to have four teams that realistically can think about high seedings and homefield advantage – the Saints, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Falcons. A few other teams – the Eagles, the Cowboys, the Packers, the Bears, the 49ers, and the Cardinals can think at least about the playoffs.

It’s not unrealistic to think a 9-7 record will get you into the NFC playoffs. It’s realistic to think a 10-6 record will guarantee you a spot in the NFC playoffs.

New Orleans has five wins and three games yet to play against winless teams – two against the Buccaneers and one against the Rams. The remainder of the schedule features three games against below-average teams (two against the Panthers and one against the Redskins), two against mediocre teams (the Dolphins and the Cowboys), and three against good teams (two against the Falcons and one against the Patriots.)

If the Saints sweep the winless teams, split against the Panthers and Falcons, split the games against the Dolphins and Cowboys, and say, beat the Redskins and lose to the Patriots, they’d be 12-4 and perhaps in the best shape they have ever been in entering the post-season, which they’ve entered only six times.

As for homefield advantage, the Saints have a leg up on everybody except the Vikings, the only other undefeated team in the NFC. They have a 1½-game lead on the Giants because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. They have a one-game lead on the Falcons and control their fate with the two head-to-head meetings.

Now back to the Vikings, who at 6-0 have a half-game lead on the Saints. New Orleans has five home games and six away games, and Minnesota, which hasn’t had its bye yet, has five home games and five road games.

The combined winning percentage of the Saints’ remaining opponents is 36 and that of the Vikings’ is 55. Though New Orleans has to win its extra road game to pull even, it has an easier schedule overall.

Plus, you have to factor in that Brett Favre hasn’t reached his annual quota of single-handed losses due to back-breaking interceptions. I’m thinking this week’s game at Pittsburgh will be one.

Yeah, it’s early and things can change quickly. The coaches and players are focused only on the Dolphins, as they should be. Let them stay grounded.

But as a fan, you can afford to look down the road, and right now, this road looks like it could extend well into 2010. So enjoy.

(Les East’s blog was named “Best Sports Blog” by the Press Club of New Orleans.)


foreverfan 10-21-2009 04:44 AM

Re: Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead
12-4 seems reasonable. I could see 13-3. Still, the Saints always manage to have 2 really bad stinker games. Wonder if we will see that this week. We're over due.

SaintFanInATLHELL 10-21-2009 06:41 AM

Re: Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead

Originally Posted by foreverfan (Post 171617)
12-4 seems reasonable. I could see 13-3. Still, the Saints always manage to have 2 really bad stinker games. Wonder if we will see that this week. We're over due.

Those stinkers used to come up because of lack of consistency and lack of focus. A combo of porous defense and negative turnovers used to put the Saints in the hole.

Now it's the opposite. Big plays given up by the Saints defense has been cut to a minimum. The offense is taking care of the ball and the defense is taking the ball away.

The chances of a stinker are greatly lessened.

And at this point 12-4 isn't actually reasonable any more. The Saints have 6 games left against really bad/mediocre teams (2xCarolina, 2xTampa, Washington, St. Louis). So the expectation is that will get the Saints to 11 wins. Of the 5 games left 3 of them are huge from a media/respect/playoff positioning perspective (2xFalclowns, Patriots). At absolute worst we need to get 2-1 in those games. That leaves Dallas and Miami. I wish the Miami game were in December. But riding the wave right now we cannot afford to lose this week. And everyone hates Dallas.

Anything less than 14-2 at this point and somehow the wheels fell off.

Being undefeated deep into October means that expectations have to change.


D_it_up 10-21-2009 08:49 AM

Re: Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead

Originally Posted by SaintFanInATLHELL (Post 171628)

And at this point 12-4 isn't actually reasonable any more.

Anything less than 14-2 at this point and somehow the wheels fell off.


I'm with you on this one, SFIAH. The explosive start has brought with it huge expectations for fans. This team is built like no other Saints' team we've ever seen before on both sides of the ball. Balance has been the key. The way the Saints are dominating teams so far, 12-4 would actually be a slight personal disappointment for me. I know 12-4 would most likely win the NFC South and possibly homefield advantage, but this team definitely has the potential to run out the regular season with a 13-3 or 14-2 record, barring major injury. I don't want to hear "The Saints have let us down in the past" or "Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves". No one can bring me down from this high that the Saints have me on right now, unless it is the team itself. In all honesty, I just don't see that happening this year. Enjoy this ride, fellas. It looks like it's going to be an exciting one.

foreverfan 10-21-2009 08:54 AM

Re: Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead
Well SFIAH... you've certainly called it in the past. It's hard to disagree with your assessments. And don't forget the pre-season. One look at your avatar says it all. I totally agree... again. I think only injuries to a few key players is the only thing that could make the wheels fall off. Hopefully that doesn't happen.

I would love to beat Atlanta & NYG in the playoffs at home and beat Indy in the Superbowl.

What do you think old Archie would have to say about that?
I'm sure he would smile.

Rugby Saint II 10-21-2009 12:51 PM

Re: Saints Fans - It's Okay To Look Ahead
Everyone makes a valid point. However, after being burned repeatedly I have to listen to my head and not my heart. My heart says this is the year while my head says things look good right now but they've looked good in the past and I've wound up with Koolaid spilled all over me. I'm excited and I am enjoying the ride. It is still too early to predict a Superbowl win...Although the odds get better every week. The expectations for this team are incredibly high right now and they should be. Right now I'm living in the moment and enjoying it. I'm not looking ahead beyond next week yet. Here's to continued success. :cheers:

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