Saints Have Sights on NFC South Crown

All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We are now halfway through the newer and longer NFL regular season and the Saints’ record stands at 5-4, good for second place, just one game removed from the division-leading Tampa Bay Bucs. So far so good – well, pretty good at least. Let’s gaze into our crystal ball to see what’s in store for our boys in the second half of the season.

It’s important to maintain perspective considering the Saints have dropped their last two contests. The 27-25 loss to the Falcons in Week 9 was hot off the heels of the Saints’ stunning 36-27 win over the Bucs and the first game in which Trevor Siemian assumed the starting job under center after Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending injury.

A letdown was almost expected against the lowly Falcons and the defense obliged by getting torched throughout the afternoon by Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who threw for over 340 yards. Sloppy play and some poor coaching decisions also worked against the Saints in that loss but they had the opportunity to redress all of it against the Titans in Week 10.

However, a cure for what ailed them against the Falcons didn’t manifest against the much more talented Titans. Although the New Orleans defense played tighter against Ryan Tannehill, allowing only 213 yards passing and holding him to one touchdown, the offense took a while to produce but eventually mustered a fourth-quarter rally that fell short in a 23-21 loss on the road in Tennessee.

“Disappointing loss,” coach Sean Payton offered afterward. “I thought we came in with a good plan. We fought hard. That’s what makes it difficult. Just in the end, too many little things.”

The Saints +3 was the play of the day for many of the best betting sites who also offer free NFL picks. And although they did technically cover the number, it was not without plenty of fingernail biting for those who backed the road dog. The Titans are a championship-caliber team and the Saints went toe-to-toe with them without their starting quarterback. That bodes well for the second half of the season. 

Kenny Stills 2021 (cropped)
All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 What’s Next for NOLA?

As of this writing, the Saints have eight games left on their regular-season slate starting with a visit to the City of Brotherly Love for a date with the Eagles. The oddsmakers are making this one pretty much a coin flip so this would be a golden opportunity to get off of the schneid and back into the win column.

The following week they will welcome Josh Allen and the Bills to the Caesars Superdome and, although anything can happen on any given Sunday, the Saints will be home underdogs. Assuming nothing catastrophic happens to the Bills’ roster, it would be fair to mark this as a loss for the good guys on Thanksgiving evening. 

The following week they welcome an enormously potent Dallas offense with a healthy Dak Prescott under center. Based on the Cowboys’ 43-3 thrashing of the Falcons, the Saints’ defense better be razor-sharp for their arrival. Sorry to say, this looks like a loss here as well.

New Orleans could very well be 6-6 by the time they touch down in New York to face the Jets. If the Saints lose here then they probably don’t deserve any playoff consideration, to begin with, so we will enthusiastically chalk this one up in the win column. 

A rematch with the Bucs in their own playpen will be a tall order for the Saints, particularly because Tom Terrific doesn’t like losing at all, let alone twice to a division rival. This would be a huge upset if New Orleans could pull it off but alas, we must deal in reality and declare this a loss.

And while a 7-7 record with three games remaining doesn’t look great, we should note there is hope because the scheduling gods have smiled upon the Saints by giving them the Dolphins and Panthers at home while wrapping the season with a trip to Atlanta where the Saints will exact their revenge on the Falcons for their previous loss. That looks like three wins to end the season.

When the dust settles, this could be a 10-7 team that cops a wildcard berth. The NFC is replete with sub .500 teams which makes a New Orleans playoff appearance all the more likely. How long they will last is anyone’s guess. The good news is Trevor Siemian seems up to the task at hand and getting even a serviceable starting quarterback in this league is a tall order. The Saints are fortunate in that regard as they have Taysom Hill in the wings if Siemian gets injured or goes south. 

Overall, Saints fans should be looking forward to an exciting second half of football and if the ball bounces their way and the officials keep their flags in their pocket, unlike the horrendous roughing the passer call against Kaden Elliss that eliminated a Marcus Williams’ interception in the end zone against Tennessee, then New Orleans fans could be partying in January when the postseason begins!

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