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Forecast: Believe! Don't let fear ruin this season

Why so much alarm by some Saints fans?

The internet seems to affect everything these days, from friendships, to elections, to what we buy, watch and eat, even our mood regarding the 2018 New Orleans Saints.

If the people emailing me and chatting with me on social media are any indication, there seems to be a strain of panic running through Who Dat Nation.

Maybe my memory has faded and I’m not remembering the 2009 Saints correctly, but I don’t recall fans having as much worry over the Saints first playoff opponent in 2009, the Arizona Cardinals, as they do this year for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Saints beating the Eagles 48-7 earlier in the year has some fans more panicked. The Eagles will be out for vengeance or something I guess.

If the Saints weren’t facing Philadelphia, fans would be petrified of Russell Wilson or a rematch with Dallas. So why is a huge portion of the fan base gripped by fear? The Saints had a bumpy 3 weeks after Thanksgiving, but they went 2-1 in those games, and won a game with defense in Carolina when they only scored 12 points. That’s an actual thing that happened, I saw it.

Why so much alarm by some Saints fans? Because the internet allows us to consume as much Saints information as we desire. If you want to spend 3 hours falling down a worm hole that will give you 9000 stats, videos, and charts of the Saints offensive struggles since Thanksgiving, the internet is there for you.  I created fancy fact-based Venn Diagram to back up my theory that Ted Ginn Jr. returning will cure the Saints offense. Don’t believe me? Prove my Venn Diagram wrong! I believe this in my heart.

Credit: Ralph Malbrough

Want to go to WebMD and learn about all the injuries to the Saints offensive line? I know WAY too much about pectoral muscle injuries now. I may have mailed a nature mud-based remedy for Terron Armstead’s injured pec to Airline Dr.  Maybe the struggles of receivers not named Michael Thomas interest you? It’s all just a Google or Twitter search away.

The NFL playoffs are as exciting as they are nerve-racking, because one terrible day and poof a great season is left in ruins, but the Saints are 13-3 and the best team in the NFL, so let’s not let fear overtake our fun.

Some of you are probably telling yourself, “I’m just going to expect the worst, that way if it happens it won’t hurt as much.” That’s not how this adventure works and deep down you know it. Heartbreak is a feature of NFL fandom, not a bug. You could convince yourself all week there is no doubt the Saints are losing Sunday, and if they do, the walk out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be just as empty and miserable as if you had believed the Saints were going to win 100-0.

The 2018 Saints are 13-3, so if we aren’t going to believe in this Saints team, when exactly are we going to? The 2018 Saints have a better defense than the 2009 team and faced a significantly tougher schedule. Oh, and Drew Brees is 5-0 in home playoff games as a Saint.    

Nothing is guaranteed, just ask the 2017 Saints, who seemed on their way to a third NFC Championship Game appearance since 2006 when things became a combination of grotesque, ghastly, and in an instant football tragicomedy descended upon us.

Be a fan however you want, just know pessimistic thoughts and awaiting your football nightmare to become reality won’t make its’ arrival even 1 percent less painful.

Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: 2018 New Orleans Saints Playoff Hype Video -- Joseph Jude Estrade

Believe.

It’s more fun to believe than to doubt in sports.

In 2009 my Dad died in October, so while the Saints were having their most glorious of seasons a lot of the time I was grief-stricken. It was mostly at night in bed or when I was alone with nothing to do. By Thanksgiving weekend, I got so tired of being sad I decided every night before I went to bed or when my mind started thinking of how much I missed my dad, I’d simply play a song on my iPod, close my eyes and dream of how the Saints would get to the Super Bowl. Mostly to this Coldplay song, which even as a Coldplay fan, I’ll tell you isn’t one of their best. Why that song? No idea. Maybe I just liked the way it builds slowly and then if close my eyes about 90 seconds in it delivers a soft crescendo that I always imagined would be the joy of 70,000 Saints fans hugging each other in unbridled joy because the Saints, our Saints, the team that once drove us to wear bags on our heads were going to the Super Bowl. 

Did I visualize in my dreams how the Saints won the NFC Championship in real life? I did it 55 straight nights before bed following the Saints Monday Night win against the New England Patriots on November 30, and each time the Saints got to the Super Bowl a different amazing way, so yes Brett Favre and Minnesota Vikings imploding to deliver the Saints to a Super Bowl got me to sleep one of those nights.  Was it incredibly silly? Yes. The mind will do silly things sometimes to forget they miss their dad.    

As the NFC Championship unfolded and the Saints seemed on verge of losing, I even screamed out, “Do something dumb Favre!” as if I could will it into existence. I’m not telling you if every night before bed we all dream of the Saints winning this Sunday and next it’ll happen, I’m just telling you believing it’s going to turn out how we want is better than letting the despondency of fearing the worst ruin the fun. 

Football is above all supposed to be fun, and it’s more fun to believe in our football dreams than our football nightmares.  I go into Sunday believing in my Saints dreams, not my Saints fears. I expect a party, not a funeral, and will drink in the stress, the magic and the atmosphere with 70,000 of my fellow lunatics.

Believe.

The Games
Season: 47-32

New Orleans (-9.5) vs Philadelphia: The Saints are biggest favorite this weekend according to Las Vegas and part of me thinks that number is way too high. The rematch won’t be 48-7 because the Saints caught the Eagles at their lowest point in 2018, but the Philadelphia game was also the first one after the Saints offensive line started to get hit with injuries so if the Saints are only missing Terron Armstead, then that shouldn’t be a concern, even against a good Eagles pass rush.

The Eagles Nick Foles is so hot and lucky right now, the Lucky Charms cereal leprechaun might sue him for copyright infringement. But Foles will give defenses chances to make plays too, and Philadelphia only ran for 42 yards in Chicago; don’t expect much better against the Saints. I fully expect the Eagles to employ the Pittsburgh Steeler plan of 5 receivers and complete abandonment of the run. They are going to ride Foles.  

The thing is the Philadelphia secondary is still injured and terrible. Chicago quarterback Mitchel Trubisky threw for 300 yards and took all of 2 plays to get the Bears into field goal range late in the game.

I expect Foles to make some plays and things are going to be a little anxious for a while, but the Saints are the better team and if they play well, they’ll win.

Saints 34-20   

Indianapolis (+5.5) at Kansas City: Did you realize the Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994? They’ve lost 8 straight home playoff games! If they can survive the Colts they’ll get to the Super Bowl. They will. Barely.

Chiefs 38-35   

Dallas (+7) at Los Angeles Rams: I got this feeling something is wrong with the Rams.

Cowboys 31-27

New England (-4.5) vs Los Angeles Chargers: I love to watch Philip Rivers and it’d be cool to see him and Drew Brees in a Super Bowl, but I’m not picking against New England.

Patriots 31-28

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.