By Lucas McMillan
Many people predicted the New Orleans Saints would be dead in the water after this summer’s Bountygate scandal, and for a while, they were. They started out 0-4, and their four losses couldn’t have been any worse.
They dropped one to the lowly Carolina Panthers (who have only won one other game this year) and even lost an OT game to the Kansas City Chiefs (a team that only has that one win in their W column this season).
However, the Saints have won five out of their last six, including one against the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons, to scrape back to 5-5. Can they keep winning and maybe take a wild card spot in the playoffs?
Unfortunately for the Saints, it’s going to be brutally hard to overcome those four losses at the beginning of the year. Every one of those games was winnable, and if they were to make a serious playoff push, they would’ve needed those games to pad their win total.
It gets harder from here for the Saints: they host San Francisco, NY Giants and Tampa Bay with a road contest against Atlanta over the next four weeks.
Tampa is a much better team than when the Saints last faced them, Atlanta will be seeking revenge and the Giants can lock down on defense when they want to. The 49ers, meanwhile, may be the most physical team in all of football, an ill omen for a finesse-first, run-and-gun team like the Saints.
However, at times, the Saints have shown flashes of the brilliant team they have been in years past, like in a huge 31-27 win over the Falcons on November 11.
“That’s something we feel like we’re capable of and we envisioned being able to do that, because we know the type of team we have,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said after that game. “We knew we dug ourselves a hole. We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we also knew we have the right type of people.”
And that’s the frustrating part about the Saints. Their offense is so good that you want to believe they can make it. Brees is having a typically sensational year, tossing 28 touchdowns against only nine interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes.
But as good as the offense has been (the passing offense, anyway; the Saints rank 26th in the league in rushing yardage yet second in passing), the Saints defense has been truly abysmal.
They have allowed 305 passing yards and 157.8 rushing yards per game, good for second to last and dead last in the league, respectively. The Saints can outscore some teams and even get on a hot streak like the current three game wave they’re on. But with a defense that bad, success is hard to sustain.
“We’re on our way,” Brees said after the Saints’ dominant 38-17 win over the Raiders on Sunday. “Had you told us or anybody after 0-4 we’d be looking at 5-5 at some point, I think a lot of people might have looked at that and said that’s pretty unrealistic.
“But here we are. We stayed the course, we didn’t overreact. … We just knew that things were going to turn for us if we just continued to do things the right way, good things were going to happen. And we did that.”
As much as I want to believe that, and as convincing as the Saints’ wins have been recently, it’s tough to believe they will end this season above .500.
They have been too hamstrung by their sluggish start and pitiful defense, and neither one of those things can or will change overnight. The Saints are flashy and fun as heck to watch, but for now, that’s all they are.
Lucas McMillan is a writer for FootballSchedule.me. To checkout the week-by-week Saints schedule as well as the latest NFL and college football news, visit Football Schedule. Follow Football Schedule on Facebook and Twitter @FBSchedule.