The New Orleans Saints aren't dead yet.
After eight games and a 3-5 record, this team is still just one game out in the loss column to the Seattle Seahawks for the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff race—an impressive feat, considering the team lost its first four games.
Making the playoffs with a 3-5 record midway through an NFL season isn't unprecedented, either. The San Diego Chargers did it in 2008, ending up with an 8-8 record and the No. 4 seed.
Unfortunately for the Saints, they don't have the luxury of being in a division where an 8-8 record will win, as the Atlanta Falcons have already won eight games this season.
The Saints will have to win more than eight games to claim one of the two wild-card spots in the NFC, but there's still a chance to get in if this team can win six or seven of its remaining games.
Let's examine some key elements to determine whether or not the Saints have what it takes to make a second-half surge to make it into the postseason in 2012.
The Saints are On a Roll
As we've seen with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants recently, it's not how you start the season that matters—it's how you finish.
The Saints have won three of their last four games, and Drew Brees has been on fire. He's thrown 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions during this stretch.
If this team continues to build upon this momentum, it's not out of the realm of possibility to believe the Saints could storm into the postseason on a red-hot winning streak.
But there are a couple of things standing in the way...
As brutal as things have been for this team, things are about to get even tougher. The Saints have some top-notch opponents standing in their way in the second half of the season.
Of the eight remaining games, the Saints will likely be favored to win just three.
Here is the team's schedule the rest of the way in 2012:
- Week 10: Atlanta Falcons
- Week 11: @ Oakland Raiders
- Week 12: San Francisco 49ers
- Week 13: @ Atlanta Falcons
- Week 14: @ New York Giants
- Week 15: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Week 16: @ Dallas Cowboys
- Week 17: Carolina Panthers
As you can see, it's going to be extremely difficult for the Saints to win enough games to stay in the playoff hunt.
There's No Defense For This Atrocious Defense
If not for Patrick Peterson's 99-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Eagles would have gone up 7-0 instead of the Saints, and the game could easily have gone the other way.
The Saints have the worst defense in the NFL, allowing an astonishing 471 yards per game.
Even in their victory over the Eagles, they gave up 447 yards—221 of which came on the ground.
There's just no way to sugar coat the truth: This defense will go down in the annals of NFL history as one of the worst units ever fielded by any team in any era.
It will also likely be the doom of this team's chances to make it into the playoffs in 2012.
The Saints can get into the playoffs, but it's not likely to happen in 2012.
If I was a betting man, I'd bet heavily against this team going on a magical run. The Saints need to win at least six more games in 2012 to have a shot at getting in, and I'll be shocked to see this team win five more games this season.
Without a defense capable of slowing down even the most anemic teams (see Week 3 vs. Kansas City Chiefs), this team is doomed to mediocrity, no matter how well Brees and the offense performs.