The New Orleans Saints snapped their hideous five-game losing streak with a much-needed victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, a positive victory if you are one of those people who believe in playing to win every game. If on the other hand you think that the Saints are going nowhere fast this season, you probably wonder why they even bothered. Regardless, New Orleans has now placed itself right back into the playoffs picture and here are five numbers that illustrate that.
11 - Not Out of It
The Saints are 11th in the NFC with four games to go for every team in the conference. There are no more bye weeks, thus over the next month or so, it will be easy to track teams’ records and see clearly who is out of it and who still has a chance to enter the tournament.
Atop the conference, the Arizona Cardinals (10-3), Green Bay Packers (10-3) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3) occupy the podium. At this point, only the Packers would get a bye week as they are in first place by way of tiebreakers over the Bucs and Cardinals. Teams in position 4 to 7 are the Dallas Cowboys (9-4), LA Rams (9-4), San Francisco 49ers (7-6) and Washington Football Team (6-7). Teams 8 to 11 are the Minnesota Vikings (6-7), Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), Atlanta Falcons (6-7) and New Orleans Saints (6-7), all of whom are well within sights of not only the Football Team in the 7th position, but also the 49ers who are only one game ahead. Getcha popcorn ready!
0.643 - The Toughest Road
If the Saints make it to the 2021-22 NFL postseason, they will have beaten some pretty tough odds. New Orleans’ four remaining opponents have a combined record of 27-25 (0.643). That is the highest combined record that a team currently outside the top seven in the NFC but still in the running for a Wild Card berth will face for the remainder of the season. The Saints’ toughest opponent will be the Tampa Bay Bucs (10-3), who they face next Sunday. The Bucs skew the overall record of the Saints’ last remaining opponents, however the Dolphins (6-7), Panthers (5-8) and Falcons (6-7) are all teams that could give the Saints trouble, especially given that the Panthers and Falcons have already beaten the Saints this year. If the Saints make the playoffs this year, they will have earned it.
5 - The End of an Era?
Doesn’t it feel like it has been forever since the Saints last missed the playoffs? Well, it’s been five years, to be precise. The 2016 season, when New Orleans finished 7-9 was the last time that the Black and Gold did not enter the NFL tournament. From the 2017 season until the Saints’ exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Tampa Bay Bucs in the Superdome last year, it felt as though the playoffs had become a birthright for New Orleans. Five years later, Drew Brees has retired and it seems that an era is truly coming to an end, with the Saints in danger of snapping a four-year postseason streak. Will Sean Payton be able to keep the consecutive playoffs appearances going? Or will a missed postseason foreshadow a bigger rebuild in New Orleans than most had envision? Only four weeks of NFL football and we will have the answer.
172 - The Streak is Dead...Long Live the Streak!
When the Saints played the New York Jets last Sunday, one player was missing from their starting lineup: defensive end Cam Jordan. The Saints drafted Jordan in the 2011 NFL draft out of Cal Berkeley, and he started in all but one game that season. From 2012 on, Jordan played and started every single regular game for New Orleans, until a positive COVID-19 test stopped him at a staggering 172 consecutive games played in and 171 games started. Now the defensive end will look to start another streak when the Saints play the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday Night Football this weekend, and the Saints could certainly use all the help they need against Tom Brady and the Bucs’ lethal offense.
17 - Home Away from Home
Should they have a real shot at making the playoffs this season, the New Orleans Saints need to win their next game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Saints have enjoyed the venue: In 26 games in Tampa Bay, New Orleans has 17 victories against 9 defeats. In the Sean Payton era (since 2006), the Saints are 10-5 against the Bucs, a whopping 67% win percentage. The Saints will have to rely on that winning history when they play the 10-3 Bucs in Tampa on Sunday night. The Bucs have become quite reliant on former LSU Tiger running back Leonard Fournette, who in the right offensive system is starting to live up to the hype that accompanied him to the NFL. New Orleans’ defense is a tough unit against the run, so Fournette might not find running lanes as easily as he has in recent weeks. The true test will be on the Saints’ secondary, having to contend with Tom Brady and wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin who are both having their best season in years. The Saints have a chance to improve their all-time record in Tampa to 18-9, it will be hard, but if history is any indication, it is far from impossible.
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