The 2-5 Saints now face a daunting schedule, with two games against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, away contests with the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, and home tilts against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.
No matter how good Drew Brees and the Saints offense can be, there may be too much for this team to overcome to make 2012 a success in terms of making a postseason run.
But should New Orleans pack it in and look toward next season this early? Absolutely not.
Though the Saints are likely to miss the playoffs—largely due to poor defensive performance (ranked last in the NFL in total yards allowed), this team has been through too much over the past year to throw this season away.
How many wins will the Saints finish the 2012 season with?
Winning and playing well may be the only remedy to help everyone in and around the organization put Bountygate in the rear-view mirror. While it may not result in a 17th game, the remainder of the 2012 season will have a different purpose for Brees and Co.
There is too much pride and talent in the locker room to not keep their heads up and moving forward.
Though every game still needs to be played, and anything is possible, the Saints' mission should now turn to bringing a sense of normalcy back to New Orleans.
With the aftershocks of a horrific offseason still taking its toll on this team, playing the rest of the 2012 out as if nothing ever happened would do wonders for the Saints, their fans and a city that leaned on its football team when it needed to make a comeback of its own after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.