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Mouton: Saints a vastly better team at season's end

Doug says the Saints are finishing on a high note and have overcome a lot of injuries and adversity and looked prime to make some noise in the playoffs.

NEW ORLEANS — It’s been amazing how they have worked around every potential problem you could have. Drew Brees goes out – no problem – they win without him. Mike Thomas goes out – and he was clearly their single best offensive weapon last year – and the Saints win without him.

And this week, Alvin Kamara and the entire running back group was out. The Saints were averaging 140 yards rushing per game going into this contest, they lose the entire running back room and they ran for 156 yards this week. They actually beat their own average, which was really good. It’s the best running team of the Sean Payton era.

Can Bears compete with Saints?

I don’t think so. The first time they played, it was a close game, but, Chicago against Green Bay yesterday, you saw what they do. They kept it close for three quarters and Green Bay blew them out in the fourth quarter.

Since that Chicago game in week 8, the Saints have become a much better team, Chicago has sort of gone the other way. And look, they backed into the playoffs. They needed to win to get into the playoffs and they lost, but then Arizona lost too so they backed their way in. The current talk in Chicago is whether they should fire the head coach, while in New Orleans it’s getting ready for a potential run at the Super Bowl.

The Saints aren’t just the favorite. Of the six games this weekend, the Saints are the biggest favorite – starting at 9.5 points. This is one the Saints should get through and then it would get much tougher. Look, it’s still the playoffs. Anything can happen. Very few people thought Minnesota would beat the Saints last year, but Minnesota last year was a lot better team than Chicago is right now.

Who is the biggest hurdle in the NFC?

You have to go through Green Bay. Assuming this plays out the way it’s expected to (and it often doesn’t), Green Bay would get Tampa Bay at home next week in their first game and that would be Aaron Rodgers against Tom Brady – spectacular matchup – but assuming Green Bay gets through, you have to go to Green Bay to win.

The one thing about this Saints team is the way they are running the ball. This team is running the ball better than any Sean Payton team in 15 years. When you run the ball, you keep your defense off the field and it’s a weather-proof offense. It doesn’t matter if there’s bad weather, when you can run the ball, you can do that in any climate. I would love the Saints’ chances to beat Green Bay the second time through. Look, the Saints were playing terrible when they lost to Green Bay. They are playing infinitely better now. I like the Saints to have at least a 50-50 chance in Green Bay but clearly that’s the hardest game – if you can get there.

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