With five home games left out of eight, Saints control their playoff destiny
Halfway through the season, the New Orleans Saints sit at 4-4. September was miserable, and at times it seemed like it would be an arduous journey just to get to .500. Think about the 0-2 start, with losses to the Atlanta Falcons and the Cleveland Browns… THE CLEVELAND BROWNS! Since then, the Black & Gold have posted a 4-2 record, with a 21-point margin of victory over the Green Bay Packers and an 18-point win over division rival Carolina in the last two games. With eight games left, the Saints face only three teams that currently have a winning record. Fans should have all expectations that the Saints can and will not only be a playoff team, but NFC South division champs as well.
Under head coach Sean Payton, the Saints have not only become a second half team, but have also made the Mercedes-Benz Superdome a house of horrors for visiting teams. The last half of the season is set for the Saints to potentially dominate. With five of eight remaining games at home and three road games against an emerging Steelers team and foundering Chicago and Tampa Bay, it’s conceivable that the Saints could go anywhere from 7-1to 5-3 through the remaining eight games of the regular season.
The Saints are home for the next three weeks, playing against the San Francisco 49ers, currently an underwhelming 4-4, the surprising Cincinnati Bengals, 6-2, and the Baltimore Ravens, 5-4, before traveling to Pittsburgh to face the 6-3 Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger has been on fire, throwing for 12 touchdowns in the last two weeks. It will be very difficult to go into the Steel Mill and get a road win, but very conceivable the Saints will emerge from November at 7-5. In December the Saints travel every other week with games at home against division rivals Carolina (3-5-1) and Atlanta (2-6) and road games in Chicago (3-5) and Tampa (1-7).
At 4-4, the Saints are obviously not happy with their record. If you consider their 21-point loss to the Cowboys an anomaly, they have been competitive, losing their other three games by a combined total of six points.
At 4-4, they’re in the thick of the playoff hunt. If they go 5-3 in the next eight games, they’ll finish at 9-7. That may be enough to finish with the NFC South division crown.
Of course, Payton will dust off his “Finish Strong” message, hoping to go 7-1 in the next eight and competing the regular season at a very respectable 11-5.
If they can accomplish either scenario, the Saints will be set to host a home playoff game. And may well be on their way to a second party with the Lombardi.