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SmashMouth 11-08-2013 08:47 AM

Saints’ schedule won’t soften anytime soon
 
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Through five games, the only remaining drama in the Saints’ regular season appeared to be whether they would get homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

So much for early-October sentiment.

Coming off a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday — its second defeat in three outings — New Orleans (6-2) enters by far the toughest stretch of the schedule with just a one-game cushion in the NFC South and no assurance of even a playoff berth at the season’s midpoint.

NFC East leader Dallas arrives at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night. New Orleans then hosts defending NFC champion San Francisco, which has beaten the Saints in their past two meetings, followed by a quick turnaround against archrival Atlanta on a Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.

The task stays tough from there. Next is a trip to Seattle, which has not lost at home since 2011, before the Saints face surging Carolina twice in three weeks during December.

By then, we’ll know if the early-season promise of a 5-0 start has translated into something special or turned into a colossal disappointment.

“You kind of look at the stretch ahead, and it doesn’t get any easier,” quarterback Drew Brees said Wednesday while lamenting the game that got away against the Jets. “It is going to be extremely tough.”
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The combined record of the Saints’ first six victims is 18-31. The record of their next seven opponents is 34-25 — and that mark includes the 2-6 Falcons, who had multiple chances to beat New Orleans in the final seconds of the season opener.

“It is almost like a new season begins,” Brees said. “We’ve learned a lot from the first eight games, both good and bad. We know the areas in which we need to improve. We are going to need to see those improvements if we are going to win these games.”

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