The New Orleans Saints are officially eliminated from playoff contention after Week 14, and good riddance.
After starting out the season with a record of 0-4, the Saints' season should have been over a long time ago. If not for Drew Brees and an offensive explosion between Week 5 and Week 11—minus the beating that the team took in Denver in Week 8—the Saints would have been deemed a sunken ship before the midway point of the 2012 season.
Now we can finally put this dead horse in the ground and start talking about teams with a valid opportunity to make a run at Super Bowl XLVII.
The Saints never had a real chance—not with Sean Payton's lingering absence and certainly not with a defense that can't tackle, stop the run or rush the passer.
The Saints defense is simply abysmal.
And though we can all certainly appreciate Jonathan Vilma's crusade to clear his name, there's no doubt that Payton was well aware of Gregg Williams' bounty system and allowed it to continue.
He had to be punished, and nobody should feel sorry for a team that was flourishing under a system so base and corrupt as to award players for injuring opponents.
Remember, Williams is on record saying unconscionable things:
"Kill the head...Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head...He [Michael Crabtree] becomes human when we (expletive) take out that outside ACL." (Hear Williams' audio recording of the infamous "Kill the head" speech before the teams divisional game against the San Francisco 49ers here).
After the Saints were exposed for running such a blatant hit-squad bounty scheme, it's only right that this team should suffer through a terrible season such as it has. Too often, teams like the New England Patriots are slapped on the wrist for cheating. It's about time that a team suffered the consequences of its actions.
In college football, teams that get caught cheating are more often than not suspended from bowl contention for a period of time. This kind of punitive punishment is exactly what the NFL needed to squash any further attempts at running these kinds of "pay-for-performance" schemes (or whatever you may want to call them).
The only NFL fans feeling sorry for the Saints these days are fans of the team. Nobody else will shed a tear for the team's ineptitude this year.