It wasn't supposed to happen this way. The 2017 New Orleans Saints -- only one and now almost 2 weeks into the new season -- look a whole lot just like the team from 2014, 2015, and 2016.
And that's not a good thing.
After a very disappointing performance against a very underrated and probably overlooked Minnesota Vikings team during a 29-19 loss last Monday Night, the Saints return home to open their 2017 regular season home schedule at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in just a few short hours from now to face the defending World Champion New England Patriots.
And what was supposed to be one of the "highlight" games of the early part of the 2017 NFL season schedule, has now gained an extra layer of intrigue, as both teams are desperately seeking a victory to atone for their similar (0-1) starts to the season.
But while their win-loss records are the same, their situations are not.
The Patriots play in what might be the NFL's worst division, and getting off to an 0-2 start for them isn't all that big of a deal, with 14 more games after this one today to close the gap against the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and the godforsaken New York Jets.
The Saints on the other hand, participate in the ultra-competitive NFC South division alongside the defending NFC conference champion Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and another loss would potentially put them even deeper into an early season hole which as we've seen during the past 3 seasons, is something they have NOT been able to overcome.
The last time that the Saints had a winning season and made the NFL Playoffs was 2013, and that year's team started the season out at 5-0.
If you think that you are starting to see a trend here, you would be right.
The Saints have started out at 0-2 in all 3 of those seasons (2014-2016) and were 1-4 overall after the first 5 games of the season each and every time.
In other words: the Saints cannot afford to dig themselves yet another hole to begin a season, but yet here we are.
Now clearly, the NFL schedule makers this year didn't do the Saints any favors.
Three of their first four games are outside the Superdome, which started with last Monday Night's loss at Minnesota. Today’s home opener against New England has the defending champs coming to town and playing with the advantage / benefit of having 10 days worth of rest and preparation.
Next week brings a road game against NFC South rival Carolina, followed by a game played overseas in Week #4 at London, England against the Dolphins.
Following the Bye Week after the Dolphins game, the Saints return home to face the high-powered Detroit Lions passing attack in Week #6.
If the Saints hope to have ANY chance of eventually having a winning season and a shot at the 2017 NFL Playoffs, it's reasonable to assume that the Saints at the very least will need to split the first 4 games.
Another bad start to open a season could bury them before they even get a chance to "get off the ground", and to show any true potential that they might have as a team.
This Saints team is one that hasn't quite figured out WHO they are or what kind of team that they want to be just yet, and today's game could allow New Orleans to show everyone that they are in fact a legitimate contender, and that last week's loss to Minnesota was just a simple bump in the road to begin the season and nothing to get panic-stricken over.
Or...... they could end up just showing us that the more things are expected to change, the more they seem to stay the same.
But this much is a fact: this current Saints team as we know it and as its presently constructed, can not and WILL NOT survive another 7-9 (or worse) season.
It's almost a virtual guarantee that BIG changes are in store for the Saints franchise if they don't have a winning season or make the NFL Playoffs this year.
Which is exactly why that now only 2 weeks into the 2017 regular season, that the Saints ALREADY find themselves in a "must-win" situation.
We're going to learn A LOT about the 2017 New Orleans Saints today.
Hopefully the first thing they'll show that they haven't shown in the past 3 years, is how to overcome and move past the adversity that comes with a very shaky start to the regular season like the one we saw 6 days ago.
Because if THAT team shows up again today?
Then it's more than likely that this new season could end up looking a whole lot like the last 3.......