At first glance, the division-leading Saints have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. New Orleans has a home game next week against the Panthers, followed by road games at currently winless St. Louis and Tampa Bay. In a remarkable lucky stroke of scheduling, the Saints return home to take on the New England Patriots (on Monday Night Football) and have the Cowboys in New Orleans in Week 15 (on NFL Network).
I hate to be the messenger of bad news but, excluding the Falcons, just two teams in the Saints final 10 games currently have winning records.
But this is the NFL.
We’ve seen teams with improbable starts (looking at you 0-6 Tennessee Titans).
We’ve seen teams with low expectations succeed (how’s it going 6-0 Denver Broncos)?
We’ve seen reigning division champs look as if they’re falling apart (good morning, Carolina).
The Panthers won the NFC South last season with a 12-4 record (may take more wins than that this season), powered mostly by success at home and one key road win. You likely remember Carolina winning at New Orleans in Week 17 to become the only division team to win a road game inside the division. The Panthers finished 4-2 in the South, the Saints 2-4 and Tampa and Atlanta won three at home and three on the road (3-3).
Parity like that still exists. It doesn’t disappear because the Saints get off to a 6-0 start or the Bucs fall out of the gate.
The logic applies to any game played against the Panthers (2-4, third place in the division) or the Buccaneers (0-7). Let’s also assume the odds of a team getting better as the season progresses are still high and that the NFC South schedule is back loaded.
The Falcons have played just one division game, as have the Bucs. The Panthers have played just two in the first six games. The Saints? Monday night is the first NFC South game on their schedule.
There are some stories to be added to these rivalries.
And never forget… Plenty of football to play.