5 things to watch over the New Orleans Saints final four games

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The New Orleans Saints’ chances at the playoffs is merely an afterthought, but that doesn’t mean their season has come to an end — there is a lot to keep an eye out for.

Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 52-49. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Broken hearts, shattered expectations, and the melancholy of a losing team. These are sadly what the New Orleans Saints have left us with in 2015. When the season began fans dared to hope that last years disappointments were merely a one year thing, a combination of bad luck and ‘bad apples’ in the locker room that was fixed in the offseason. Sadly this was not the case.

While the Saints HAVE shown improvements in some areas, especially from a talent perspective, they have also regressed at others. Some position groups such as defensive end and tight end lost above average players (a true star in Jimmy Graham) and so the decline in that area is expected. However, the team was supposed to have fixed the cornerback position with the additions of Brandon Browner and rookie free agent Delvin Breaux.

While Breaux has exceeded any reasonable expectations for his first year in the league, Browner has been an unmitigated disaster. Caveats and excuses abound for sure, however there is no denying that Brandon Browner has been anything but the ‘final piece’ to a strong secondary that fans were hoping for.

That may be the issue though, our hope. We let it blind us to the reality that was staring us in the face. This was never a ‘re-tool’, it was always a rebuilding effort and Sean Payton and company knew it all along. They knew deep down that this year’s team was never going to compete for anything (even if they hadn’t been absolutely devastated by injuries). That was part of why they handled the offseason the way they did. Get rid of the ‘bad apples’, bring in passionate vets who care about winning to re-establish that culture while also amassing a number of talented young pieces to build off of. That was the plan, and an argument can be made that it’s going according to plan if that’s the case (I made that argument on the thesaintsnation.com podcast that I do once a week).

Be that as it may, and even if I am correct in that hypothesis, watching a losing team sucks…a lot.

How then are fans to cheer for the New Orleans Saints, and what positives can we take from a team that was flawed even before injuries crippled what little chances it had of winning? The answer (at least to me) is simple: change your perspective.

The Saints record over these final four weeks is irrelevant, and in the case of many fans they will be hoping that the team will lose in favor of a better draft position. Outside of the win/loss column though there is a great deal that I will be paying attention to over these last few weeks. I’m going to list 5 in particular, but there are many other things to keep your eye on if you want to try to get a gauge on how things will play out this offseason.

I am personally viewing this year as Part One of a two part mini-rebuild (yes I am CHOOSING to see the light here), and I do legitimately feel that this team is closer to being good than many might believe (providing key players can return healthy). That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it IS possible, and so long as that possibility exists, I will hope for it even as I acknowledge the odds.

Without further ado here are my five things Saints fans should pay attention to through the last four games.

Next: 5. C.J. Spiller