Sitting comfortably atop the NFC South at 10-0 with a five game lead, one would think the New Orleans Saints could begin to enjoy their unanticipated streak of victories.
The Saints seem well on their way to claiming ownership of the NFC South title and a playoff berth. In fact, one more Saints victory coupled with an Atlanta Falcons loss will do just that. This season, however, there's more to accomplish than just a playoff berth and a run deep into the playoffs.
Head Coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees, and the entire Saints organization feel they have a lot more to prove than simply displaying an ability to win the NFC South. The Saints are seeking greatness .
Yes, that's right, greatness. And that greatness will be defined by their one-game-at-a-time mentality culminating in a Superbowl Championship.
During his tenure with the Saints, Sean Payton has crafted one of the NFL's most prolific offenses, ranking in the top five each season since his arrival in 2006.
So far, his offenses have consistently outscored opponents. Unfortunately, the Saints defense, among other things, was one weakness that could not be overcome.
And the Saints were always no closer than one step away.
This year, however, things are different.
With the addition of Gregg Williams as the new defensive coordinator, the Saints have given opponents more than their share of headaches. The Saints have made a complete and unprecedented turnaround on the defensive side of the ball, while improving on their offensive proficiency.
The puzzle is complete and the journey has commenced. The Saints are making history and trekking toward greatness.
The Payton/Brees tandem is always riding the fringe of the "elite" conversation. Each of them has shown exceptional skill and football acumen, but until "greatness" is achieved, they will forever be, to some, really good, but not great.
Two-thousand and nine is the year that greatness will be achieved.
Almost doesn't count, and the Saints know it. But within the Saints organization, there's a new mentality and attitude that expects to win by playing together and finishing strong.
And the new New Orleans Saints finish strong, outscoring opponents 105-24 in the fourth quarter.
The Saints have successfully taken the best shot from 10 teams so far this season and yet have emerged victorious in a multitude of ways.
They've trounced teams like the No. 1 ranked, 5-0 New York Giants 48-27 in week 6.
They've experienced a thrilling come-from-behind victory in Miami in week 7 after giving up a 21 point lead.
They barely held on to a fourth quarter lead to hold off the 1-8 St. Louis Rams in week 10.
The bottom line is this: Beginning on Monday night in the Louisiana Superdome, the Saints will be playing for greatness and their reserved seat at the "elite" table.
Arguably this decade's most successful franchise, the New England Patriots are desperately clinging to their elite status. The Saints, on the other hand, are seeking to ascend to elite status. And what better way to display greatness than to beat the decade's most successful team?
I suspect the Saints want to make statement... loud and clear.
Expect a very good game. Expect a hard-fought game. Expect the Saints and Sean Payton to pull out all stops in an effort to send the Patriots back to New England with their fourth loss of the season.
With conventional wisdom out the window, expect to see plays from the deepest recesses of Payton's playbook. Expect to see dominance, execution, and an attitude never before witnessed in a New Orleans Saints team. Expect the Superdome to be rockin' and rollin' with each and every snap; the fans will be insane!
When the dust settles and the smoke clears, expect the Saints to emerge with a new-found swagger.
The Saints know they belong in the elite conversation, but the rest of the world outside the Who Dat Nation still needs convincing.
The Saints belong in the conversation because, despite what the NFL can't admit, luck doesn't get you to 10-0. Luck can't make a team lead the NFL in takeaways and defensive touchdowns.
But to be the best, you must beat the best.
And that's exactly what the Saints will do.
Finally, the NFL world will have to admit that they've slept on the Saints. At 10-0, the Saints have provided unapologetic foreshadowing of the dominance that will be displayed on Monday Night Football on November 30, 2009...the day the SAINTS go marching in to GREATNESS.