As the Green Bay Packers have looked increasingly vulnerable in recent weeks, there is a new team creating an aura of invincibility: the New Orleans Saints.
As we have seen in 2005 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2007 with the New York Giants and last season with the Green Bay Packers, it is not the team that performs best throughout the entirety of the regular season to look out for. It is the team that is peaking at the right time, and the New Orleans Saints are that team.
The Saints have not lost since Week 8. In that span, only two games have been close, while the rest have been blowouts by at least 14 points. During the streak, the Saints embarrassed playoff contenders in the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and New York Giants.
Of course, if you are going to beat the Packers, you either need a defense that can contain Aaron Rodgers (good luck) or an offense that can outscore him. If anyone has been on Rodgers' level this season, it's Drew Brees. Brees set the passing yards record with a game to spare and has 41 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Rodgers is behind on yards, has 45 touchdowns and an admittedly-incredible total of just six interceptions.
While Rodgers has plateaued a bit from his record-setting pace, Brees is playing his best football of the year. Even with Rodgers' five touchdowns against the toothless Chicago Bears, the Saints' QB has him beaten in touchdowns (18 to 14, both with two interceptions) in the last five weeks.
Of course, a quarterback is only as good as the friends he has to play with. While Rodgers boasts Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley, Brees counters with Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles.
Sproles represents a huge X-factor in this potential matchup, as he and Pierre Thomas bolster the NFL's ninth-ranked running game, compared to the Packers' 27th-ranked attack. The trio of Sproles, Thomas and Mark Ingram have combined for more than 1,500 yards rushing on more than five yards per carry. James Starks and Ryan Grant have accounted for just less than 1,100 yards on 4.25 yards per rush.
The New Orleans' defense has come around, as well. It is allowing just 19 points per game in the last six, compared to 22 for the Packers. The Saints have not given up more than 24 points since Week 6, a total the Packers' D has allowed four times in the same span.
Of course, where the Packers have an undeniable advantage is with turnovers. The Packers have a plus-22 differential in turnovers, while the Saints are at negative-four. In their thrilling Week 1 matchup, turnovers were the difference. In a game that came down to the final play, the Saints had a costly fumble, while the Packers played mistake-free football.
When we are talking turnovers, all it takes is one game to erase regular-season mistakes. If the Saints can win the turnover battle, they will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, not the mighty Packers.