NFL Playoffs 2012: New Orleans Saints Are Playoffs' Most Dangerous Team
After all, Drew Brees and Sean Payton are only two years removed from their own championship season.
Here are five reasons why the Saints have a good shot at winning it all again in Super Bowl XLVI.
Saints Have a More Balanced Attack
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The New Orleans Saints rank No. 1 in the NFL in total offense, just ahead of the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC.
However, unlike the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, the Saints have a balanced offense.
Meanwhile, the Saints are No. 6 in rushing yards. They have a pair of solid running backs in Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
Drew Brees is obviously the No. 1 key to success, but the Saints can rely much more on the running game than the 2012 NFL playoff field's other dynamic offenses.
Everyone Is Focused on the Packers
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It's hard to believe as good as they are, but with the Green Bay Packers the defending Super Bowl Champions and the No. 1 seed in the NFC at 15-1, the New Orleans Saints are not getting a whole lot of attention.
With everyone focused on Aaron Rodgers' team, the stage is set for the Drew Brees crew to glide through the playoffs the way the Packers did last season.
Not only does the Packers attention help take some of the heat off the Saints, it also helps the Saints to play with a chip on their shoulder. The Saints are 13-3 and only lost to the Packers in the final minute of their matchup earlier this year, and yet they don't even get a bye.
The Saints have something to prove, especially with the loss to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the first round of last year's NFL playoffs.
New Orleans Is the NFL's Hottest Team
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The New Orleans Saints are currently tied for the longest active winning streak in the NFL after coming out on top in each of their last eight games.
The New England Patriots have also won eight in a row. However, Tom Brady's team did not play a single team that finished with a winning record in that stretch, and only faced one playoff team (the suddenly hapless Denver Broncos).
The Saints, on the other hand, have played five of their last eight games against teams that finished their seasons with winning records. Four of those games came against teams that made it to the playoffs.
Thus, New Orleans is undoubtedly the hottest team that made the playoffs. They have played extremely well since October, beating the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons by double digits.
They have a ton of momentum heading into their rematch with Detroit in the first round.
Drew Brees Is Playing Better Than Anyone Right Now
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Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers both had phenomenal seasons for their respective teams. They were undoubtedly the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this year.
But while Rodgers had a higher passer rating and better touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season, Brees has been playing better in the latter part of the year.
In the last five games for the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has thrown 19 touchdowns with only three interceptions. En route to his breaking Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season, he's posted a passer rating above 110 four times and above 140 twice.
In the last five games the Green Bay Packers have played, Aaron Rodgers has only thrown nine touchdowns with two interceptions.
He's posted a passer rating below 100 twice, with his highest in that stretch being 116.6 against the Detroit Lions. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes.
Rodgers was the best player in the NFC (and NFL) for the first 10 games, but Brees has been the MVP the second half of the season.
He's feeling it right now, and he's ready to take the Saints a long way.
A History of Super Bowl Redemption
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Often when dealing with sports, looking at trends can help one guess what will happen in the future.
Four of the last five Super Bowl Champions lost their first playoff game in the season preceding their championship.
The New York Giants lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round in 2007, then came back and beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their opening round game in 2008, then beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl the next season.
And the Green Bay Packers of course won Super Bowl XLV after losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card round in 2010.
The only one of the last five Super Bowl Champions who didn't lose their first playoff game in the preceding season was the New Orleans Saints themselves, and that's only because they missed the playoffs in 2009. Teams that are talented but have disappointing finishes often make up for it the next season.
The Saints were considered a dark horse Super Bowl pick last year, and they lost to the worst playoff team in NFL history, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.
They have the talent again, and after last year's loss, they're undoubtedly hungry for redemption.