With standing at 3-5 overall, you’d think the New Orleans Saints season has a long shot of being successful.
If you look at the standings, however, you’d know the Saints sit just one game back of the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons who stand at 4-4 overall. The Saints defeated the Falcons in Week 1, by the way, so they currently hold the tiebreaker should both teams be tied for the division lead. Despite a disastrous start to the season, the Saints are firmly in the mix for a division title and automatic playoff spot which would feature at least one home game.
Here is how these teams look the rest of the way:
At 4-4, it’s a surprise to see them overachieving. Every game they’ve played has been extremely close and one score, outside of a surprise two touchdown win over the 49ers. The Falcons rank 25th overall on offense and 31st on offense. They’ve been fortunate to win some close games but it seems clear being .500 is an aberration when you consider how poorly they have played on both sides of the ball.
The Falcons are carried by Cordarrelle Patterson (currently on IR) pacing their rushing attack, Grady Jarrett anchoring their defense and Younghoe Koo consistently making kicks. While this may make you think the Falcons are set up for a collapse, they do have the second easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. So keeping pace with them may prove more difficult than you’d expect and it will certainly at minimum require another win for the Saints over them for the season sweep.
TAMPA BAY BUCS
The Bucs are in a bad way right now, having lost three straight. As a team they only average 3.0 yards per carry (dead last in the NFL), Tom Brady’s level of play has dropped off, and the play up front on the offensive line has been disastrous. Their offense ranks 21st overall and really struggles to produce any explosive plays. Defensively, being ranked 11th feels like a disappointment for a group that many thought would be one of the best in the league.
They do have the 5th easiest schedule in the league remaining, though, so if Brady and his troops were ever going to make a run the time is now. Despite this current run they remain a threat and splitting the season series against them will be critical.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Turnovers are really the story for the Saints as to why they are 3-5. The Saints remain dead last in the NFL at -9 in ratio so far this season. That has prevented the 5th best ranked offense and 10th best ranked defense from winning more games.
Granted, that defensive number is skewed significantly by a dominant performance against the Raiders which vaulted them in the rankings. Still, this team likely has the most potential of anyone in the division if they can get healthy and stop giving the football away. Their schedule isn’t as easy as Atlanta or Tampa, but rankings 11th easiest it’s still a very navigational path. There’s no way around the fact that their last three NFC South matchups, one against each team, are all must wins. Fortunately two of those three will be at home.
At 2-6 they feel done. They’ve already traded their best player in Christian McCaffery and they’re currently starting their third string quarterback PJ Walker who has played better than either of the two guys ahead of him over the last two years. They have the 3rd easiest schedule remaining but they’ve already fired their head coach and appear to be waiving the white flag.
With the 29th ranked offense and the 21st ranked defense they are showing no real signs of playmaking or talent. Most teams circle this game on their schedule as an expected win.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.” He can be followed on Twitter @AndrewJuge