New Orleans Saints at the 3/4 mark and looking forward

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The Saints are at the 3/4 mark of the 2017 Season. Sitting at 9-3 and atop their division, Who Dat Dish takes a look at how they got where they are and what’s ahead. This piece is dedicated to the memory of a great Who Dat with whom I watched many Saints games over the years, including our Super Bowl win, my best friend, Andy Steib…

Three quarters of the New Orleans Saints 2017 season has come and gone. To say fans are surprised at where the team stands would be an understatement. We saw improvement in the offseason and into the pre-season, but we couldn’t ever have predicted this. Here’s how we got to the 3/4 mark and what’s ahead.

As we rolled from 2016 into 2017, we saw the Saints’ brass focus on getting younger and faster. That change has seemed to make all the difference as the Saints have been one of the NFC’s top teams, while playing as challenging a schedule as there is in the league this season.

The Saints are on top of the NFC South with a 9-3 record. Their 3 losses came to 3 teams that are also division leaders – the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West, the New England Patriots in the AFC East, and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.

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While we should be excited about the record, we should also temper just a bit of that excitement with reality – in the words of the legendary Ric Flair “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This holds true for the Saints – it’s absolutely necessary to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, but when crunch time comes, we must prove ourselves by beating the teams in front of us.

But back to the bright side. Carolina was our closest division competitor, and we’ve swept them, so now we hold the tiebreaker should something negative happen down the stretch. And we don’t play any other division leaders in 2017. But that doesn’t make our closing quarter schedule easy.

In my preseason predictions, I had the Saints going 3-1 through the third quarter of the season. I got the prediction correct, but I’d hedged on which team the Saints would lose to. My original thought was we’d split and go 3-3 in our division. We are currently 3-0, so to go 3-3 would signal a real issue down the stretch. I’d also assumed that what seemed to be an improved Tampa Bay would be the team to beat, so that negates some factors from earlier.