Payton And The Saints Looking For Respect , Playoff Bid in Crowded NFC South

Keith NullContributor IDecember 10, 2008

Why can't the Saints make a playoff run? They are good enough offensively, everyone knows that—so why are they on the outside looking in time and time again?

Is it the bewildered history of the franchise that shy's the experts away from picking the Saints or its at times atrocious defense that can stop no one?

I'll be the first to admit that the frachise's history is less than stellar.

Since the inception of the Saints as an NFL franchise in 1967, they have posted just 14 winning seasons, are 2-6 in postseason play and have never been to a Superbowl.

Overall they have posted a 254-367-5 record. Pretty bad for a professional football team, to say the least.

But lets look at the modern-era Saints since 2000. They have had five winning seasons in seven years, two division titles, and the club's only appearance in an NFC Championship game in '06.

Pretty respectable for a perpetually struggling franchise.

Enter Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston—the saviors of the Saints team, and catalysts of the storied 2006 season.

All have brought valuable talent to the club, but none of the others are as valuable as Drew Brees.

Since Brees' arrival in New Orleans in 2006, he has thrown for more yards, attempts, completions, and has the best completion percentage of any quarterback in the league.

Currently, he is on pace to break Dan Marino's long-standing passing yardage record of 5,084 yards set in 1984. He is first in the league in a variety of categories—the accolades can go on and on.

But this team is still not considered a threat to make a run at the playoffs.

New Orleans boasts the top offense in the league, is second in points scored, and recently found a rejuvenated running game. But still no love?

Running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas lit up the Superdome and the Falcons, hanging 184 yards on Atlanta with three combined touchdowns. Analysts close to the sport say you cannot make the playoffs or be successful in December without a run game.

Well, with Payton's promise of a more balanced offensive scheme, that's exactly what they have. A good and very dangerous run game that hopefully takes them back to '06 form.

Defensively, the Saints have not been a solid threat since the Mora era and the fabled "Dome Patrol."

Over the course of the last month though, the Saints defense has displayed heart and determination. They have played better than they have all season, pressuring the quarterback, forcing fumbles, and picking off passes.

That's saying a lot considering this unit has lost more starters to injury than just about any other team out there.

The outcome of the 2008 season is still yet to be seen.

Currently, the Saints are one game out of the second of two wild card spots in the NFC. They would need to jump ahead of Chicago, Washington, and Philly, among others.

The first step is to get by Chicago this Thursday at Soldier Field. New Orleans has three wins in its last four games, but Chicago has won the last two meetings between the teams.

New Orleans has the talent to win, even though many do not hold the same opinion.

The franchise needs a winning season just as much as the fans do to prove the '06 season was no fluke. They need to win to prove to analysts and commentators that they can be an elite franchise.

Will they ever get some of the respect they deserve? Most likely no, but maybe a few winning seasons will help quell the naysayer's and heal the fans.