Self-worth. Tomorrow’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is perhaps the most important game the Saints have played since facing the Colts in the Superbowl.
It’s a must win, get it all right, make a statement kind of game. The Saints have everything to prove and equally everything to lose.
Tampa beat them in week six, and another win over New Orleans would propel the Buccaneers to tops in the division.
Not only is the NFC South crown on the line, but a win is critical to silence the critics as well as the doubt looming in Metairie.
No one expects them to come out and play as poorly against the Buccaneers as they did the Rams, but everyone is paying attention to how they play and respond to the recent adversity.
Beyond the Buccaneers the Saints next three games are of critical importance.
The Atlanta Falcons started a little slow but have won three of their last four and are currently staring down the Saints for a share of first place.
New Orleans must find a way to get a win at home against them to maintain a lead in the NFC South, but also to keep Atlanta down for future playoff seeding.
Clearly they cannot afford a loss to either division opponent in consecutive games.
If the Saints lose to the Falcons though, they will have to go into the Georgia Dome later in the season to attempt a win of their own — no easy task.
After their bye in week eleven they will then have to face the NFC East leading New York Giants, followed by the surging Detroit Lions, who are nipping at the heels of the first place Packers in the NFC North.
Both games are inter-conference games, and both teams are likely headed into the post season.
Obviously a loss to either can have an enormous impact later in the season when it comes down to who makes the tournament.
In consecutive games the Saints can either lead their division, or bury themselves in it.
This is followed by consecutive games where they can either separate themselves from the pack, or fall to the back of it.
Hype. They don’t need it anymore. Respect. They must earn it once again. Self-worth. They must re-establish themselves as an elite team, and it all starts tomorrow against Tampa Bay.