That’s right. The New Orleans Saints go 4-0 in the season’s third quarter. They’re 8-4, and have escaped a fourth-straight losing season. So are they playoff-bound?
Week 14: @ The Atlanta Falcons
The Saints don’t meet the Falcons until Week 14, much like the Buccaneers last year. And this time it’s a short week in Atlanta. Thursday Night Football.
I’m not sure there’s been a bigger loss in football than the loss of Kyle Shanahan. Sure, that offense had a lot of weapons and very strong OL play. But there was just something magical about the way Shanahan schemed and made the most out of every matchup. Steve Sarkisian may turn out to be a solid OC. And he may not. But no chance in hell can he shine a light to Shanahan’s 2016 dominance. They lost a fixture on their offensive line in Chris Chester and will have to make up for the underrated loss of Patrick DiMarco.
On the other hand, their defense is young and added Dontari Poe. Rookies in the secondary and at linebacker will be better in 2017, and Desmond Trufant is back from injury. Robert Alford looked good in his absence. I don’t like this Falcons defense. What I mean is, I do like it. I think it’s a very solid unit. And with Dan Quinn at the helm, I’m not optimistic.
Prediction: Falcons 28 – Saints 17
Week 15: The New York Jets
Who is going to be the quarterback for the Jets?
I don’t see many intimidating options. Could it be Trubisky? Watson? Kizer? Mahomes? I’d play against any of those guys in their rookie years. They’re none of them NFL-ready. Will it be Bryce Petty? Ryan Fitzpatrick?
I think we can handle this Jets team. They have players on defense, but not enough to put a cap on Brees and Payton. And they absolutely have nothing of note on offense. This could be one of the worst teams in the league in 2017. And we’re getting them at the end of the season, when their lot at the bottom of the league will be set in stone. Demoralized. I smell a blowout.
Prediction: Saints 31 – Jets 14
Week 16: The Atlanta Falcons
This time we get the Falcons at home. On a normal week. We’ve had time to gameplan for them already, and our players can get rest and come ready to play. And the same is true for the Falcons.
I just don’t like our matchups with this Falcons squad. Yes, our roster on defense is improved. Our linebackers should be better than in 2016. But we don’t have the players to contain Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Taylor Gabriel is a matchup problem for us. We don’t do well against speed.
And on the other side, Dan Quinn is just a solid solid defensive mind. The Falcons made the right choice in bringing him in, I think that much is clear. He understands football and he understands how to contain Sean Payton’s gameplans. This game could go either way, as is the case for all Saints-Falcons matchups. No matter the talent discrepancy. But remember, I looked into the fire. I know which way it’ll go.
Prediction: Falcons 21 – Saints 14
Week 17: @ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints end the season on the road. Again. Divisional opponent. Again. At least it makes for fun football if it is a bit stressful.
The Saints are 9-6 after dropping two to the Falcons in three weeks. A win here likely propels them into the playoffs, while they are still in contention with a loss.
This Buccaneers team could either be wildly dangerous — if Winston, Jackson and Evans live up to the hype that their union warrants, and if their defensive youth continues their upward trajectory and their vets stay in form — or wildly underwhelming — if Winston makes questionable decisions, if they can’t get their running game going, if Jackson can’t stay healthy, and if the wheels fall off their defensive veterans. I could easily see both scenarios unfolding, and by this point in the season we’ll know which one it’ll be.
My money is on the dangerous side. They’ve got some great players and have a hard-nosed culture. I’m not happy that we have to play them twice a year, in 2017 or in the future. That’s life in the NFL.
Prediction: Buccaneers 27 – Saints 17
There you have it. 9-7.
Not a pair of digits that Saints fans are happy to see, but at least they’re in the right order.
I think this Saints roster should compete for the playoffs. And if they make it, I think they can beat most anyone in the league. The NFC South is looking strong as ever, and many of their wins will be hard-fought. But I have them getting swept by both the Falcons and the Bucs, and still finishing with a winning record. If they want to win the division, they’ll need to win some of those divisional games. But even if they don’t, a wild-card spot is entirely in play.
What do you think? Not that it matters. This is how it’ll be. Trust me. I’ve seen into the flames.