Mapping out How the New Orleans Saints Can Still Make the Playoffs
When it comes to the chances of making a run in the NFL, the possibility begins and ends with a team's quarterback.
For the New Orleans Saints, fresh off a rather impressive 28-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that's won of three of its last four, Drew Brees is the ideal signal-caller to direct a winning streak to the postseason.
Can the 3-5 Saints do it?
With Brees, anything's possible, right?
Well, he does boast a rather impressive win streak track record.
Since joining the Saints in 2006, Brees has compiled seven winning streaks of at least three games, including 13 straight victories to begin the 2009 regular season—the season New Orleans won the Super Bowl—and eight straight triumphs that ended last year's regular season.
So, based on his history in the Big Easy, Brees is more than capable of leading his team on a run.
Although many have pointed to his relatively substandard 61.1 percent completion percentage, it's worth noting that he's still on pace for over 5,000 passing yards and 44 touchdowns with only 16 interceptions.
For those legitimately concerned with his lower-than-normal completion percentage, it's also worth noting that during the Saints' recent 3-1 stretch, Brees has completed 65.5 percent of his tosses, or two-tenths of a percent lower than his career average.
Is Drew Brees back?
All is seemingly well with Brees.
Did I write that going on a run begins and ends with the quarterback?
For the most part, it does. Without outstanding play from the signal-caller, a club under .500 has no shot.
But, in the Saints case, they'll actually need more than stellar play from Brees—something I truly believe they'll get, especially with tight end Jimmy Graham back on the field, playing at full capacity.
They will need their defense to step up.
New Orleans has drastic defensive deficiencies—that we know.
They're last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (176.5), and only three teams allow more passing yardage per game than the 295 they surrender.
Yet they did a tremendous job of exposing the Eagles porous offensive line Monday night with an array of blitz packages en route to a seven-sack evening.
The continual punishment of Michael Vick should have been surprising to some, because heading into Week 9 New Orleans, as a team, had tallied only eight quarterback takedowns.
Maybe defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has finally uncovered what works when attempting to rush the passer.
Sure, a few of the final games will significantly test the Saints lackluster defense, but there is a glimmer of hope for their most difficult matchups down the stretch.
What will be the final outcome of the Saints' 2012 regular season?
The Saints are clearly constructed to win shootouts, but if their blitz packages continue to get home, especially in those three specific games, things will be looking up.
While I'm on that subject, what record will it take to advance to the NFC postseason?
Right now, the AFC is an abomination with 10 of the conference's 16 teams either at or below .500.
The NFC, frankly, isn't much better. With nine teams below .500 it's blatantly obvious that the NFL is loaded with more parity or mediocrity than ever.
It's foolish to attempt to project which teams will win and lose during the second half of the season, so I'll stay away from that.
However, New Orleans does face five teams that currently sit above them in NFC's playoff standings.
With an elite quarterback who's heating up and has orchestrated many winning streaks in the past, a defense that's recorded nine sacks in the last three weeks, and a difficult but opportunity-filled schedule, the Saints can definitely make a realistic run at the playoffs.
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