The New Orleans Saints are the No. 5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.
So does that mean they're just the fifth best team in the conference?
I don't think so.
Even though the Saints will be without Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory for the playoff run, they still have as good a chance as any to make it to the Super Bowl.
Who Dat! Who Dat! Who dat said they gone beat them Saints?!
Well, you decide that one on your own.
But here are 10 reasons why they'll not only make it to the big game, but win it for the second straight season too.
In the team's five losses, the Saints lost by a combined 42 points.
That translates to an average margin of defeat of just 8.4 points per game.
New Orleans only has one loss by more than 10 points.
Aside from the Cleveland Browns game earlier in the season, the Saints have never been out of a game at the start of the fourth quarter.
Even when they're outplayed, they generally tend to stick around until the end.
The Saints undoubtedly have the easiest Wild Card game of the playoffs against a seven-win Seattle Seahawks team that ranks 27th in total defense and 28th in total offense.
After that round, the Saints will face either the Falcons or the Bears.
New Orleans has already beaten Atlanta in the Georgia Dome and Chicago—which ranks 21st or lower in all major offensive statistical categories—would provide the Saints with a good matchup in the Divisional Round, unless it's a blizzard out there.
If the Saints were then to meet the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, it would take place in New Orleans.
Finally, the fifth possible NFC opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, have allowed 27.5 points per game in the last four games that mattered (not the regular season finale).
The Eagles have given up at least 24 points in seven of their last nine games, which certainly bodes well for the Saints.
A team that wins the Super Bowl is oftentimes a squad that got hot at the right time rather than the best team in the NFL.
The 2007-08 Giants come to mind.
And during the regular season, the Saints had a six week stretch where they looked damn near unbeatable.
New Orleans won those six games by an average of 10.5 points per game and had three wins by at least 15 points.
If the Saints get another little spark, then look out.
Penalties seem like such a trivial thing—until they cost your team a big game.
Don't believe me? Just ask Kansas State's Adrian Hilburn.
Anyway, the Saints have the fourth fewest penalty yards (701) in the NFL, behind only the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys.
Let's compare that to some of the other NFC contenders:
Bears: 790 yards
Eagles: 724 yards
Falcons: 1,003 yards
Packers: 758 yards
Obviously, the only huge difference is between New Orleans and Atlanta.
Still, New Orleans is among the league's most disciplined teams, which could play a much bigger role than you might think come playoff time.
Both Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory will miss the entire 2011 playoffs because of injury, but that doesn't seem to matter to the Saints.
In the regular season, the Saints were 7-2 when Thomas didn't play, 3-1 when Ivory was on the sidelines and 0-1 when the two played in the same game together.
As much as people might think that the Saints absolutely need Thomas and Ivory, they've proven otherwise.
The Saints are the true definition of a team.
When one man goes down, the other players pick up the slack.
How many other teams would perform that well without their top two running backs?
Could Atlanta survive without Michael Turner?
Could the Ravens win without Ray Rice?
Could the Steelers get a "W" without Rashard Mendenhall?
You be the judge.
I'm sure you've all seen this by now.
It's a graphic that shows the parity during the 2010 regular season.
And it's true.
The Jets beat the Patriots, the Patriots beat the Steelers, the Steelers beat the Ravens, the Ravens beat the Saints, the Saints beat the Seahawks, the Seahawks beat the Bears and so on and so forth.
The bottom line is that there is no dominant team.
There is a definite parity among these playoff squads and a Super Bowl title is not a sure thing for any of them.
The Saints are the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Last season they outlasted the Arizona Cardinals (the defending NFC Champs), the Minnesota Vikings (the preseason NFC favorites) and the Indianapolis Colts (always a contender) on the way to a Super Bowl win.
New Orleans has also taken down the mighty Falcons on the road this year and the NFC playoffs will likely go through Atlanta.
The Saints undoubtedly have the experience of playing (and winning) in the playoffs that other NFC teams—like the Falcons—don't.
And they have not given in to the curse of the Super Bowl slump that has befell so many past NFL Champs.
Drew Brees rarely has to wash his uniform after a game.
Some playoff teams, like the Chicago Bears (56 sacks allowed), the Philadelphia Eagles (50), the Pittsburgh Steelers (43) and the Baltimore Ravens (40), really struggle in pass protection.
But Brees has only been sacked 25 times on the season, which is the fifth fewest in the NFL, behind only three teams—the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts—in the playoffs.
Over the last two seasons, he's only been sacked 45 total times, which is less than five times allowed in 2010 alone.
Both of the team's starting guards, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, were also named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster this year.
They allow Brees to stay upright more than just about any other quarterback and that's good for both his health and his chances of completing passes to his wide array of weapons.
Drew Brees has tossed far too many interceptions this season (22), but he's also thrown for more than 4,600 yards and 33 touchdowns.
New Orleans has a plethora of offensive weapons, from rookie tight end Jimmy Graham to Marques Colston to Lance Moore.
Three receivers have at least five touchdown catches (Colston, Moore and Robert Meachem), and nine different players have gotten into the end zone.
The Saints rank third in passing yards (277.6 per game), sixth in total yards (372.5 per game) and 11th in scoring (24.0 per game)
The Saints were once nothing but a one-trick pony: a lot of offense and little of anything else.
New Orleans ranks fourth in total yards allowed (304.2 per game), fourth in passing yards allowed (193.9 per game) and seventh in points allowed (19.2 per game).
The Saints haven't forced as many turnovers in 2010—they have 23 this season—but their defense has improved in most other areas.
They've held eight of their 16 opponents to less than 20 points and rank sixth in the league in third-down efficiency.
Opposing offenses only convert 34.5 percent of their third-down attempts.
Jonathan Vilma is also one of the league's best middle linebackers, while guys like Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are big playmakers in the secondary.