First, my congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for a well played season; and I'm sure there fans are excited, however, the hype and excitement that was the Saints' season is about to close in January.
Although they have an explosive passing attack and the cannon-armed quarterback in Drew Brees, the Saints are a team that are dangerously close to falling short and here's why.
Looking back at the Saints schedule, the opponent's records combined were 97-127, 30 games under .500.
Early in Week Two, the Saints faced an early season Eagles team that has since revitalized itself and proven to be a competitor.
Although the victory was dominating (the Saints won 48-22) the Eagles are not the same team they showed to be in September.
They played the New England Patriots, whom are not the same Patriots from years past, and decidedly beat them 38-17.
Despite an impressive victory, they nearly lost the next two games against Atlanta and Washington—the evidence that the offense wasn't as consistent as they were early in the season.
And lastly, they played the Dallas Cowboys who were on the rebound and heating up at the right time, and lost...at home.
The rest of the schedule provided an array of teams that were either squeaking into the playoffs or jockeying for draft position.
Together these opponents compiled a record of (24-72).
These teams provided the Saints with eight easy victories—pretty hard not to make the playoffs with that considered.
In the games against competitive teams, and those jockeying for playoff positions, the Saints' average margin of victory was 15, not quite the dominating margin stats and records would lead you to believe.
Consider that in weeks 10 and 13, the saints barely escaped St. Louis and Washington with victories averaging a margin of four points with the two opponents going 5-27 combined.
From week 10 onward the Saints were not the steamroller that they were in the first half of the season as they won by an average of 12.6 points before dropping the last three games, in which Brees and co. played against Dallas and Tampa Bay.
Outside of the numbers, this team has become more exposed to defensive coordinators and seems to have become tunnel visioned on their game day approach.
It seems that if you examine the schedule, the Saints let their guard down against teams they feel are not on their level. They can't afford that in the second season.
At this point in time the NFC is wide open for any of the playoff teams to seriously make a run to the Superbowl.
The Saints also have some issues that need addressing, namely defense.
We all know the Saints can score, they rank number one in total offensive yards per game.
However, on the defensive side of the ball, the Saints rank 25th overall. Specifically, 21st against the run and 26th against the pass.
The teams in the NFC playoff race consist of teams whom rank in the top 10 against the run and pass, with the exception of Arizona contending from the weak West division.
Green Bay ranks first against the run, averaging 83.3 yards per game, followed by the Vikings in second, Dallas in fourth, and Philadelphia in ninth.
The Saints cannot afford to become a pass only team against any of the above mentioned. The ability to run must be established because without that, Drew Brees becomes average.
Simply put, I just don't see the dots connecting for New Orleans.
The schedule they had due to the past two seasons being under .500 has given them a false sense of security, and that will cost them in the playoffs.