New Orleans Saints: Are They a Legitimate Playoff Contender?

James ReesAnalyst IOctober 14, 2008

It’s easy to say after Sunday’s thrashing of Oakland that the Saints have turned the corner; that the defense is playing at a top-notch level and that Drew Brees is unstoppable. 

It’s easy to think after a 31 point win that once Jeremy Shockey, Marques Colston and Sedrick Ellis return, New Orleans will turn on the jet fuel and start running over people.

Really, it’s easy to envision the Saints making a deep run to playoffs after such a dominating performance in front of the home crowd. 

But the fact remains that this was just one win; a win over a team that LSU might even have given trouble (not really, not after that embarrassing showing in the swamp).

But you get the point.  Sure the Saints won and won big, but any self-respecting, semi-talented, half-awake NFL team could have won that game.  The Saints took care of business in a game they should’ve won. 

That’s a good thing though.  Good teams do that; it’s a mark of a focused club.  They win they games they’re supposed to win. 

With that said, I still think the Saints have a lot of work to do.  At 3-3, the black-and-gold are heading into an absolutely critical portion of their schedule.  This week they travel to Charlotte to challenge Carolina for first place in the division.  After that, they go to London for a “home” game against the Chargers

For the Saints to have any chance at the playoffs, they’ve got to win at least one of these next two games.  A split would put them at 4-4 heading into the bye week; a perfectly manageable spot considering their remaining eight games.

After the bye, New Orleans plays Atlanta twice, Kansas City, Detroit, Green Bay, Carolina, Tampa and Chicago.  In at least five of those games the Saints will be favored.  And the other three are certainly winnable games. 

Suppose the Saints do what they need to do in the next two weeks and get to 4-4 at the midway point.  All things considered, they would need to win six of their remaining eight games to have a shot at the playoffs.  A 10-6 record, I would imagine, wins the division for the Saints.  Six out of eight is doable.  

Anything less, though, will keep them home for postseason--assuming that is, that they get to 4-4 in the next two weeks.

I may be underestimating them, though.  Who am I to say the Saints can’t win both of their next two games?  With the way Drew Brees is playing, it’s absolutely possibly.

Two losses, though, is equally as realistic.  Carolina got embarrassed last week against the Bucs.  They’ll certainly be ready to redeem themselves against the Saints.  And the Chargers are just as skilled offensively as the black-and-gold.

All told, these next two weeks are a make-or-break for the Saints.  Come bye time, I think we’ll have a much better idea of what the Saints might do this year.