Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
The New Orleans Saints looked like they were back. And then they ran into the Denver Broncos. At 2-5, New Orleans is roughly one loss away from guaranteeing a playoff-less year. And that means watching another NFC team playing for the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Not everything that's gone wrong with the Saints' 2012 season can be blamed on the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, but much of it can be. Payton was clearly the glue that held the offense together, and without him they've been able to produce yards but rarely the points or big plays needed to win.
The defense is another problem altogether. Steve Spagnuolo's scheme is so wildly different from the one that Gregg Williams ran, and the team lacks the players needed to effectively pressure the quarterback with only a four-man rush.
Until the Saints can improve the talent level on defense, and until Payton is back on the sidelines, the future looks bleak in New Orleans.