The New Orleans Saints are 4-6 and seem destined for another 7-9 season. To a certain degree this is expected. If I told you that Terron Armstead would be hurt most of the year, they be starting UDFA’s and guys off the street at corner, and the special teams was going to be an unmitigated disaster at the beginning of the year you would have told me 7-9 was ambitious. It’s very difficult to say that the Saints have underperformed considering the circumstances of their season, but they have. The Saints have lost in a close game where they had a legitimate chance to win in 5 of their 6 losses, and almost all of them came down to a critical mistake by the Saints that cost them the game. The frustrating part of this team is that they have been SO close to digging themselves out, and so close to having a winning record against all odds that it is exasperating.
The question becomes, is this team capable of catching fire and making a run at the playoffs. As unlikely as that would have sounded at the beginning of the year, the Saints are in a position where if they win out they are almost definitely in. But, it’s very difficult to say with any confidence at all that a team who has won 4 games to date, will then go out and win the next 6 in a row.
Unlikely doesn’t mean impossible though, and the Saints odds of salvaging this season and making the playoffs will rely on 3 key factors: the continued revival of the defense, special teams not being a DISASTER, and a little luck with health. Throughout the last few weeks the defense has been a surprising bright spot for the team. They haven’t necessarily been ‘good’ as their best performances have come against anemic offenses, but the fact is that they have made plays and played well enough to win. Perhaps the signing of Kevin O’dea will help the special teams out, but until they prove that they cannot be a major catalyst in the favor of the opposition I simply don’t trust them. That leaves us with health and if I’m being honest this will be the biggest key to success over the final 6 games. It isn’t a coincidence that the Saints defense has seen a significant uptick in play the last two weeks with Sheldon Rankins, Delvin Breaux, and Dannell Ellerbe back on the field.
The Saints will desperately need all three of them to play from here on out, and they also need Terron Armstead to play. Not only is Armstead a better left tackle than Andrus Peat (whose filled in admirably), but his presence allows Peat to move back to left guard which is a MASSIVE upgrade. This improves the run game and allows the Saints offense to get much closer to having a ‘full play book’ which will be a necessary component for running the table. If all 4 of them can play for the next 6 weeks there is not reason the Saints can’t win out and here’s why: they don’t play one good team until week 17.
The Saints next five opponents are the LA Rams and the Detroit Lions at home, followed by the Bucs and the Cardinals on the road, and finishing with a home game against the Bucs before wrapping up the Season at Atlanta. The Rams and the Lions are bad teams that the Saints shouldn’t have any issue defeating. LA has no offense outside of Todd Gurley breaking a big run, their offensive line is a dumpster fire, and their secondary can be had. The only thing to worry about is their front 7 is very good and their pass rush is ferocious, also this is the Gregg Williams revenge game so expect this one to really matter to Sean Payton. I think the Saints are going to skull drag the Rams personally. The Bucs are a team that oscillates between horrible and meh, but they do have a couple of elite players in Mike Evans and Gerald McCoy (Jameis wasn’t mentioned here for a reason folks), but the Saints matchup very well with them and there is no reason they can’t win this game if they don’t beat themselves. The Lions and Cardinals are both mediocre teams who haven’t been great at anything, but who have some elite players at a few positions, but no real substance to their rosters. The final team on the schedule is the Falcons, and their god awful defense is fully capable of allowing the Saints to steal a win in Atlanta.
The Saints are FULLY capable of winning the next 6 games, just looking at their opponents and the match-ups it isn’t yet time to lose hope. However, there is a huge gap between possible, and likely. The Saints are able to win the next 6 games and march their way into the playoffs, but the greater likelihood is that they will lose at least two of these games and they will do so in the same heartbreaking fashion that they have to date. This isn’t because they are a ‘bad’ team, because Sean Payton is a bad coach, or Drew Brees is past his prime. It’s because between the injuries, the amount of youth on the team, and the talent deficit overall the Saints have virtually no margin for error. I will NEVER count out Drew Brees, and if they can stay healthy there is a real chance of them running the gauntlet, but don’t count on it.
The Saints have shown some real improvement, they have given us hope for the future and the youth on the roster has become a plus not a negative, but the hole they have dug themselves is just too deep to expect them to dig themselves out of.