After busting up the Los Angeles Rams perfect season, the New Orleans Saints are in a class of their own in the NFC.
Call it black magic if you must, but New Orleans is a swampy football graveyard where opposing playoff dreams come to die. Drew Brees and the Saints are historically unstoppable at home in the postseason, and through the first nine weeks of the season, it looks like they’ll own home field advantage.
New Orleans beating Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon means more than just the Rams falling from the ranks of the unbeaten. With both teams sitting with one loss apiece, the Saints own what could end up being a critical tiebreaker that decides who owns the top seed in the playoffs. Unless the Saints lose again this season — which is entirely possible — the road to Atlanta will be taking a pit stop in New Orleans.
Shame on you if this is coming as some sort of a surprise.
Last year the Saints started 0-2, and all seemed to be lost. It was at this point, however, that Sean Payton and his coaching staff did what the do best: adjust on the fly. Starting Week 3, the Saints ripped off an eight-game winning streak that propelled them near the top of the NFC playoff picture. If Marcus Williams isn’t subjected to one of the most iconic plays of the last 20 years of football, there’s a decent chance the Saints win the Super Bowl last year. That’s how good they were then and how good they remain.
Like last year, there have been hiccups that caused many to wonder if the Saints were actually for real. Starting the year by losing to Tampa Bay wasn’t a great sales pitch, neither was almost losing to the Cleveland Browns at home the following week. But exactly like last season, the Saints turned a corner after a suspect start and now seem once again to be in a class of their own.
New Orleans is in the middle of a seven-game winning streak and should be considered undefeated with a Fitzmagic-sized asterisk. The tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram doesn’t seem to have missed a beat, Michael Thomas looks like the best receiver in the league, and the Saints are the fourth-highest scoring team in football. All of this is despite the fact that Drew Brees is having, by his standards, an average year passing. It didn’t matter that Brees only threw for 120 yards on the road against the Vikings last week, the Saints still won by ten points; Brees didn’t throw a touchdown against the Giants but New Orleans still won 33-18.
Playoff Brees is a different beast, specifically when he plays at home. Since 2006 when he joined the Saints, Brees has thrown for 1,529 yards and 12 touchdowns in home playoff games, with just one interception. In that time, New Orleans has never ended a playoff run at home, only losing in games on the road. Simply put, they’re unstoppable in the Superdome, a place where opponents come to lay their playoff dreams to rest.
It’s unfortunate that the Rams lost their first game of the season, but that’s not even remotely close to the real story. Los Angeles let down more than their fans on Sunday, they did a massive disservice to the entire conference.
Losing Week 1 to Minnesota ultimately didn’t end up being a tiebreaker of any kind last year, but the same will likely not be said about the Saints Week 9 win over the Rams. Both teams have the same record and New Orleans controls the fate of the NFC playoff picture.