The New Orleans Saints had to overcome a lot on their way to the 2013 season. In the wake of "Bountygate", they had a rollercoaster 2012 season without the services of head coach Sean Payton and several players involved in the scandal.
And hopes were high with the return of Payton and a new game plan to get the team back on the winning track.
Of course, star quarterback Drew Brees is where he has always been, making plays and torching defensive secondaries, and he comes with several talented weapons to take what he dishes out. While 2013 has been a good statistical year for Brees, it won't be enough to make a playoff run.
1. The Saints started the season with five straight wins before losing to the Patriots in Week 6. That was a road game, just like their other three losses this year. Playing outside of New Orleans has not been favorable to their success rate.
2. If they fail to win out in their two final weeks, they will be forced to play their only playoff game on the road. The Saints have to visit the Panthers this week... in the hostile environment of North Carolina. The Panthers will be looking for revenge in a big way to avoid having their postseason fate decided by the tie-breaker. Then the Saints have a very winnable game at home against the Bucs, who will have the motivation of playing spoiler to a division rival. It could go either way.
3. A losing streak is not the way the Saints want to go into the postseason. It is the hot teams that tend to dominate when every game means elimination. There is no better remedy to the pressure of the playoffs than being on a winning streak. But if they struggle in their final two games, it's most likely one and done for them.
4. Possibly dropping as far as No. 6 in the seeding could mean a road game in the cold and uninviting confines of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, or a grudge match against Chicago - neither game being an easy task for the warm-weather Saints.
5. The Saints don't have enough balance on offense to compete with the top teams in the NFC. Not only do the Saints lack a 1,000-yard rusher, their total team rushing is just a tick over 1,200 yards. By contrast, the Eagles feature 1,343-yard rusher LeSean McCoy to balance 2,398 yards of passing from Nick Foles in just nine games.
If the Saints are going to have any hope for postseason success, playing on the road will squash them. They need to play better down the stretch and balance their attack. I don't see that happening and an early exit for them.