NEWORLEANS- Back on November 7 the Saints met Carolina for the second time this season in the first game of the second half of the season and with four games between those meetings.

The Saints won that game 34-3. Carolina looked so beaten up, so listless, and so hopeless that i couldn't see Carolina winning another game all season. Unfortunately for them, it looks like I could be - uncharacteristically - right.

Maybe even more unfortunately for the Saints.

Santa Claus came early for the Atlanta Falcons. He was dressed as the NFL schedule-maker. And he arrived last April when the 2010 schedule was released.

The Falcons get to play the Panthers twice in the last four games of this season. The first meeting was yesterday in Carolina where the Panthers put up little resistance in a 31-10 loss.

How much do you think they'll put up when they close a probable one-win season in Atlanta three games from now with the Falcons perhaps needing the victory to become the top seed in the NFC playoffs?

No whining here. You play them when and where you're told to play them.

Certainly the Rams couldn't have been delighted with a three-game road trip that they completed here yesterday. Since 2000, 34 teams had played three consecutive road games and only four had won all three. The Rams were the 35th and their loss yesterday dropped the percentage to 11 percent of those teams that swept all three.

I'm sure there's a good reason why the Panthers and Falcons season series was confined to the final four games. But in Sean Payton's five seasons here the Saints have never played a division foe twice in their last four games of any of those seasons.

In fact it's never happened to the Saints since realignment in 2002.

This season the schedule-maker called for the Saints to play divisional foes Atlanta, Carolina, and Tampa Bay once in the first half of the season and once in the second half. That would seem to be the fairer way to do things with as many games as possible between those meeting so each team gets a chance to be healthier in one game or the other with each team getting a chance to be equally as motivated in one game or the other.

Again, no whining here. The NFL helps those who help themselves.

But it certainly appears the Saints got no help from the schedule-maker this year. And it'll be a Christmas miracle if they get any from the Carolina Panthers either.

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