By Tom Planchet
Alook at the Saints final 9 games.
- Nov. 3 @ NY Jets noon - The Jets are 4-4 and have yet to lose back-to-back games this year, although they lost last week by 40 to Cincinnati. They have been outscored by 68 points and have had three games in which they weren't close (Tennessee, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh). Given the strength of the rest of the Saints schedule, this is a game they cannot afford to lose.
- Nov. 10 Dallas 7:30 (Primetime) - The Cowboys game begins a stretch of four straight national TV games that could grow if NBC 'flexes' any of the team's remaining games. Dallas has yet to beat a winning team and they are only 1-3 on the road. They've lost games they could have easily won (Denver and Detroit). Still, they are an immensely talented team and are likely to win their division and host a playoff game. At home, Saints need to win.
- Nov. 17 San Francisco 3:25 - San Francisco wants to catch Seattle and they know the chances are slim if they lose many more games so they'll be pointing to this one. They've recovered admirably from a 1-2 start but the wins have come against some of the league's lesser lights. The league is top heavy this year and the Saints, 49ers and Seahawks are three of those at or near the top. Saints really need to win at least one of the two against SF and Seattle to establish themselves as a Super Bowl force. A loss to both would likely relegate them to road playoff games, likely against one or two of those teams.
- Nov. 21 @Falcons (Thursday night, national TV) - This was going to be the middle of the troika of three huge games that would say a lot about the Saints' season. Now, it's just one that the Saints can't overlook as they come off of a huge game against San Francisco and stare ahead to a huge game in Seattle. The Falcons will have the proverbial 'nothing to lose' attitude and can put some salve on a poor season with a win that could set the Saints back.
- Dec. 2 @ Seattle (Monday Night) - A sure-to-be jacked up Seattle crowd will be playing in the first of their biggest two games (go to San Francisco the following week). If Seattle continues to play like it did Monday night, it may well be an underdog in this game, further stoking a fire. The thing for the Saints is, if they can't win in Seattle during the regular season, they may well have to win there in the postseason. I'm not saying they can't, but I like the Saints against any NFL team in the Superdome.
- Dec. 8 Carolina - If the Panthers keep winning and the Saints are still hot, look for this game to be strongly considered for an NBC 'flex' game. It's hard to tell how dangerous the Panthers may be as their three-game win streak has come against lesser competition, but they are clearly the second best team in the NFC South and with two games in a three week span against the Saints, they could make things interesting.
- Dec. 15 @ Rams - The Rams showed Monday night that they can make things interesting at home and that they have a pretty darned good defense. The Saints catch them in between two games against Carolina, so they could have other things on their mind. Sean Payton is really good at having his team ready on the road though.
- Dec. 22 @ Carolina - Saints have had a lot of success in Carolina. By this time Saints fans are hoping that a playoff spot will be sewn up and that the team will just be jockeying for position. Carolina hopes that there is plenty at stake.
- Dec. 29 Tampa - If the Saints have things locked up, this could be a game that demonstrates why fantasy leagues don't count week 17 as Brees likely sits - Graham and others too. If the Saints have something at stake, it's the one reason Tampa could find the juice to try to end its season on a high note. Bucs may also have a new coach by then.