Three weeks ago, the thought of the New Orleans Saints making a run at the postseason was a joke, and for god reason. A bad offensive line, which affected both the run and pass in a negative way, a lack of playmakers, and a defensive front highlighted by a near-vacant pass rush have kept the Black and Gold at the bottom of the power rankings.
But after an 0-3 start to the season, the Saints have managed to win three of their last four games. And a win this Sunday over the New York Giants will give them a chance to start fresh with a .500 record.
Certain players are returning from injuries, the offensive line is stepping up to help create more consistency both through the air and on the ground, and Rob Ryan‘s young defense is molding and coming together much quicker than anticipated.
The Saints obviously have more work to do before they should be considered a playoff contender, or even just a good team after digging themselves into a deep, dark hole. Again, this is a young club in the middle of finding their way. The potential is there, but they have to make something out of it, and the opportunity couldn’t be better with a very favorable schedule ahead:
Week 8 vs. New York Giants
Week 9 vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 10 at Washington Redskins
Week 11 BYE
Week 12 at Houston Texans
Week 13 vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 15 vs. Detroit Lions
Week 16 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 17 at Atlanta Falcons
Looking at the weak stretch of schedule, particularly the next four games, realistically, the New Orleans Saints could be 7-4 by the end of November. That is, if they truly are improving as a team and the last couple of weeks were not a fluke. If you notice the way this team has been energized, and then look at the stat sheet and hit the film reel, you can see vast improvement in just about every aspect.
Obviously, Eli Manning and the Giants’ potentially high-powered offense cannot be underestimated, and either can the Titans and their Dick LeBeau and Ray Horton-led defense. No team should ever be undervalued, even with the struggles the Redskins and Texans are facing, but this is a beautiful opportunity for Sean Payton and company to stack on some wins, and there’s no argument against that.
The Saints seem to have found some (not all) of their mojo, but progress needs to be their best friend. This is a different football team than we saw at the start of the season — things are beginning to fall in place.
The Black and Gold are slowly sketching themselves into the edge of the playoff picture. They must continue to fight hard and work together to get better, and then maybe those playoff dreams can become a reality. The arrow is green and pointing up, but consistency will be key for the remainder of the season. The Saints aren’t in it yet, but they also can’t be counted out.