New Orleans Saints and 5 Teams Who Should Look Toward 2013
Through five weeks of the NFL season, at least five teams—including the New Orleans Saints—look like long shots to crack the 2012 playoffs.
To be fair, none of the five teams we list in the following slides are mathematically eliminated. Far from it. But each will need a strong run over the final 11 games to even put themselves into the playoff conversation.
The Saints have certainly been the most unexpected of the group, but they may be the most capable of pulling themselves out of an early hole.
However, it might be fair for the Saints to look ahead to 2013, when a sense of normalcy will return. We'll highlight New Orleans and the four other teams that might already have to look ahead to next season.
Cleveland Browns (0-5)
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Expectations weren't high in Cleveland entering 2012. Coming off a 4-12 season, and with young players across the board on offense, the Browns were not seen as a potential playoff contender this season.
Despite an 0-5 record through five weeks, Cleveland has actually been somewhat of a surprise.
The Browns finished within a score of Philadelphia (3-2), Cincinnati (3-2) and Baltimore (4-1), teams that have combined to win 10 games this season. Cleveland also led the New York Giants (3-2) on the road before falling apart late.
With a point differential of just minus-39, the Browns are only the sixth-worst team in football. This team won't be better than 3-13 or 4-12 in 2012, but there's hope building for the future.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4)
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A preseason that saw second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert shine despite Maurice Jones-Drew's absence has given way to more regular-season disappointment from the Jaguars' 2011 first-round pick.
Jacksonville is again ranked 32nd in the NFL in passing, with Gabbert sporting a 73.3 passer rating and averaging under 140 passing yards per contest.
Until the Jaguars get better play at the quarterback position, they'll find themselves on lists like these early in each season.
Maybe changes will eventually come. If Jacksonville finishes in position for a top-five pick next April, a clean up in the front office should follow—which means another first-round quarterback could be in the mix.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-4)
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Changes at the quarterback position could also be on the horizon for the Chiefs, losers of all three of their home games so far this season.
Current starter Matt Cassel, who is now 30 years old, has thrown nine interceptions in 2012 for a passer rating of just 66.2. If he finishes with a passer rating under 77.0 this season, it will mark the third time in four years as the Chiefs starter that Cassel has done so.
That kind of below-average play at the position is how an otherwise talented team can end up on the losing end of so many games the last two seasons (13).
Kansas City rebounded from a 0-3 start to compete for the AFC West last season, but the division is much better in 2012. A similar bounce-back looks unlikely for the drowning Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers (1-4)
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The numbers just don't add up for Cam Newton and the 1-4 Carolina Panthers.
According to Football Outsiders, the Panthers have just an 0.2 percent chance of winning the NFC South, and a 1.3 percent chance of making the NFC playoffs as a wild-card team. Overall, a 1.5 percent chance of making the postseason makes for long odds for these Panthers.
Getting Newton back on track would give the Panthers a chance, but this might be a team that is still a draft or two away from being a true contender. Carolina isn't far off. 2012 is probably headed to a waste, however.
New Orleans Saints (1-4)
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The numbers at Football Outsiders are actually worse for the Saints than the Panthers.
New Orleans currently has an 0.2 percent chance of winning the division, but just an 0.08 percent chance of securing a wild-card spot. Even with a win against the San Diego Chargers last week, the Saints' chances dropped.
If there's a team that can prove those odds incorrect, it's this Saints team. Hard to count out a quarterback like Drew Brees.
However, the schedule is treacherous, and thinking the Saints will go any better than 9-2 over the final 11 games is optimistic thinking. Anything worse than 9-2 puts the Saints at nine wins or worse, which would put them on the fence of making the playoffs or not.
The Saints still have a chance in 2012, but the odds are long. This is a team that will probably need to regroup for the 2013 season.