When the Saints lost on the road to Carolina in week 16, and maybe even before that when they were rocked in Seattle, the expectations for the season changed a bit. Before then the objective from fans rested squarely on getting to the Super Bowl with a path in the playoffs that went at least partially through New Orleans, or nothing. Since then, we're left to summarize that this team cannot get the job done on the road, regardless of the opponent's quality, and that doesn't add up to a fun end of the season when the only way they can get to the Super Bowl as a 6 seed is to win three playoff games on the road in January. The 2013 Saints actually fit in pretty well with the team's history, too, because the team has never won a playoff game on the road. Their brief 0-5 road playoff history includes:
1990 @ Chicago 6-16
2000 @ Minnesota 16-34
2006 @ Chicago 14-39
2010 @ Seattle 36-41
2011 @ San Francisco 32-36
In case you were curious, the Saints are 5-3 at home in the playoffs in their history (4 of the 5 wins under Sean Payton) and 1-0 on a neutral site in the Super Bowl. Interestingly, Drew Brees has been the quarterback in three of those five road losses, so he's personally 0-3 as a quarterback (and Sean Payton is 0-3 as a coach) in road playoff games.
When the Saints play the Eagles tomorrow they'll be looking for the first ever road playoff win in franchise history. It would accomplish two things: proving the media wrong that this year's team can't play on the road, and it would check off item on the franchise's bucket list. The latter is almost more important to the team if you are a historical buff like me. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have done so much to change the fortunes of this team and its history, this would be another gigantic thing to mark as done. Right now as things stand, even at the peak of the franchise's glory, the narrative remains (both this season and in the entire Sean Payton era) "man, the Saints are a tough team to beat at home, maybe one of the best, but get them away from the Dome and they are just another middling team". Hard to argue that fact, but winning at Philadelphia at least gives you, as a fan, a counter argument. Right now there is no counter argument. This team can't win on the road in the playoffs. They never have. And if you've watched the trips to New York, Seattle, St. Louis and Carolina in the past couple months, this year's team isn't exactly breaking from that mold.
This game is as much about proving us the fans and team history wrong as it is the media narrative. The Saints are playing for team history. And regardless of where things go from this Saturday, whether the season ends or if it continues with a trip to Seattle, this game will decide if there's an item that can at least leave us satisfied that SOMETHING HISTORICAL has been accomplished this year. We can worry about shocking the world, winning at Seattle, and hoping for a Super Bowl pipe dream again when we get there… right now it's just about team history. Accomplishing that almost makes a horrible loss the following week tolerable.