So we’ve made it through three-quarters of the NFL season. Bye weeks are all done and everyone has played 12 games to this point. By now you know who your team is, you know where they’re headed and your expectations are gauged appropriately. How do our 2016 New Orleans Saints look, particularly compared to the rest of the NFL?
The season began in such a terrible fashion for the Black and Gold. Injuries told the tale early on as starters were dropping at a breakneck pace. Between preseason and the first quarter of the year, we’d seen injuries to no less than 9 major contributors for the squad. As replacements struggled to find their footing as starters, the team limped out of the gate to a 1-3 start, and that one win was a come from behind squeaker in the 4th game of the year.
The second quarter of the season saw people settle into roles and get comfortable. The Saints’ offensive line began to look much better and the offense found a little bit of a groove. We came out of the bye week and defeated the Carolina Panthers – a rarity in the last few years it seems. After a loss we created ourselves to Kansas City, we bounced back with a signature victory over Seattle and then went west to defeat San Francisco, going 3-1 in that span.
At the midway point of the season, we’d crawled back up to .500.
Things couldn’t have looked better. The offense was clicking, the offensive line play was solid, the defense was bending but not breaking. And to add to that, we were getting injured players back off their injuries. Things were looking as positive as they could get…
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And then the bottom dropped out. Special teams miscues and turnovers had us lose the next 2 games by a total of 5 points. There was the bounce back against the L.A. Rams, but then we witnessed what was easily the worst game of the season for the Saints – not just because they lost, but the way they lost in such a lackluster way without much fight, and with the season slipping away. The third quarter of the season repeated the record of the first quarter: 1-3. When even 2-2 keeps your thoughts of playoffs more than just a pipe dream, we lose another game we didn’t need to.
So thus far in the season the Saints are still really who we expected them to be – a very average team, right now trending less than average.
Overall, the Who Dats look like a team close to being a better than average team. Health, better special teams play, and a few key pieces could bring this team over the hump. More consistent coaching might be in order also. Did we maybe lose continuity when Payton took control back of the offense?
If there is any good news, the rest of the NFL is doing much the same as the Saints. You have traditional power New England playing extremely well and two strong divisions in the NFC East and the AFC West. You have Cleveland already looking at next year’s draft class for ANOTHER QB, and perennial cellar mates Jacksonville and the New York Jets looking at the next few guys available. Add San Francisco and Chicago to that number from the NFC and you have your top 5 teams picking in the upcoming draft. After those teams though, 5 at the bottom and maybe 3 at the top of the standings, there is a tremendous amount of parity in the middle. There isn’t much that separates the remaining 24 teams from one another, which I’m sure makes the NFL happy.
The Saints have 4 games left. After laying an egg this past week, it’s up to the players and coaches to decide their fate for the season. Do we “finish strong” and, if nothing else, give fans something to look forward to for next season? Or do we limp to the finish line on fumes and scratch our heads as we wonder what if, and once again start the old “wait ‘til next year” saying? We’ll get a glimpse as we take step one of the final quarter this Sunday afternoon in Tampa