It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Playoff race heating up with seven weeks left in regular season
Just when it looked like the New Orleans Saints were concerned that their offensive juggernaut might slow down, the unit has exploded for their highest point totals of the season in back-to-back weeks. They put up 45 points against the Los Angeles Rams, then considered the best team in the NFL, two weeks ago, then avoided what many thought could be a trap game in Cincinnati by hanging 51 on the Bengals.
With four wide receivers on injured reserve, the Saints brought in some notable pass catchers for a workout last week, including Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. They signed Bryant, but he tore his Achilles’ Tendon in practice last Friday and won’t be available this season. With Dez down, they signed Marshall this week to help supplement the receiving corps. Now, word is the Saints might get Ted Ginn, Jr., and Cameron Meredith back from IR.
Both would be great additions as the Saints set the table for the second half of the regular season.
With seven games to go, the Saints find themselves at 8-1, winners of eight straight games and new favorite to go to and win the Super Bowl. But they are in for a fight rather than a coronation.
With their success, the Saints have become a media darling. They have already played the vast majority of their games in the late afternoon or in prime time, and five of their remaining games are scheduled for kickoffs after 3 p.m., with three of those starts – two Thursday and one Monday night contests when there will only be one NFL game on air – after 7 o’clock. That means, as of now, all but two of their games will be broadcast across the majority of the nation. That level of attention will put a target on the Saints, and the rest of the NFL would love nothing more than to take them down if possible. The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles – who are just 4-5 and two games behind the NFC East division leading Washington Redskins – would love nothing more than to kick start their season with a win over the Black & Gold this Sunday in the Superdome. That’s also true of teams in the NFC South. New Orleans still has four division games left. They play Atlanta at home on Thanksgiving night, travel to Tampa on Dec. 9, and play the Carolina Panthers, currently 6-3 and second in the NFC South, twice within the last three games of the season.
While the Saints have a two-game lead in the division race, they’ll have to remain on point to finish atop the conference. Because they haven’t had their bye week yet, the Rams, at 9-1, hold a half game advantage over the Saints. But New Orleans has the tie-breaker over Los Angeles because it won head to head. At this point, the Saints want to keep winning in order to win the division, finish within the top two teams to get a playoff bye in the wild card round, and earn the best record in the conference to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
To do that, they have to get through the most intense part of the season. Despite being thin at wide out, the Saints are leading the NFL in average points per game – 36.7 – and are fifth in total offense with 413.9 a contest. New Orleans is ranked No. 23 in total defense, 376.2 yards per game, and points per game, 25.8.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Saints could best or match their best record in history, 13-3, the year they won the Super Bowl.
With the Saints atop the NFL in the midst of the holiday season, there is an electricity in the air. Combined, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Saints remaining schedule
With seven games left in the 2018 season, the Saints will have five nationally broadcast games, including back-to-back Thursday games and a Monday night contest.
|Nov. 18||Eagles||3:25 p.m.|
|Nov. 22||Falcons||7:20 p.m.|
|Nov. 29||at Cowboys||7:20 p.m.|
|Dec. 9||at Buccaneers||Noon|
|Dec. 17||at Panthers||7:15 p.m.|
|Dec. 23||Steelers||3:25 p.m.|