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Barry Hirstius

It’s VERY EARLY, But Look Who (the Saints) Just “Snuck” Into The Playoff Picture

The New Orleans Saints were able to survive a furious 28-point "come-back" attempt by the Detroit Lions the other day, and escaped with a 52-38 win that at one time was a blow-out — before they were able to walk away victorious for a 3rd straight game.

The Saints were able to move up to within a half game of the NFC South Division lead, and currently are 2nd place behind the division-leading Carolina Panthers, whom they defeated handily (34-13) back in Week #3 at Charlotte, North Carolina on September 24th.

However......

Sunday's win over Detroit coupled with a few other events that occurred throughout the day, has actually resulted in a few unintended consequences. 

First, the Saints got a key win within their conference against the Lions, which will benefit them down the road once they reach the end of the season.

Then of course, there was the mild "upset" victory by the Miami Dolphins over the Saints' HATED division arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.

Miami, after being shut-out by the Saints 20-0 in their last game played over in London, England; rallied after trailing the Falcons by a score of 17-0 — and scored 20 unanswered points on their way to a 20-17 victory.

Photo courtesy of The Orlando Sum-Sentinel

It marked yet another game in which the Falcons notably CHOKED away a sizable lead, before eventually losing a game they should have won; just 8 months removed from their infamous Super Bowl meltdown (a blown 28-3 lead) against the New England Patriots.

And then last but definitely not the least: there was the unfortunate (though fortunate for the rest of the NFL) season-ending injury to Green Bay Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers, one of the NFL's truly "elite" quarterbacks, broke his right collarbone when Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr hit him in the 1st quarter Sunday. The quarterback was rolling out to his right with Barr pressuring him. As Rodgers threw, Barr hit him in the midsection and drove Rodgers into the turf on his shoulder.

As a result, the Packers — whom the Saints play next this coming Sunday at the legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin — placed Rodgers on injured reserve yesterday and announced that his season as likely over as a result.

AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Moving forward, the Packers have announced that inexperienced back-up QB Brett Hundley will get his first ever NFL start against the red-hot Saints defense, this Sunday.

Now ALL of these events coming together in one weekend have resulted in a "shake-up" of the NFC conference standings, and take a wild guess which team appears to have benefited the most?

You guessed it: the New Orleans Saints.

As of right now at this very moment, the Saints would be the #6th and final seed in the conference, and travel to Charlotte, North Carolina for an NFC Wild Card game; to face the Panthers. 

The (3-2) Saints would have the tie-breaker over the Falcons (also 3-2) for that 6th spot, based on a better record within the NFC South division.

Now, let's be realistic here: 

There are still an entire 11 more games left remaining for the Saints to play; and as Saints fans know all too well (after nearly being given a heart attack in those final minutes of the game against the Lions); ANYTHING can (and usually does) happen, in the National Football League.

It's an absolute GUARANTEE that injuries (or a lack of injuries) will ultimately have the biggest impact upon the rest of the Saints' season, and on all of the League's other 32 teams as well.

But nevertheless: it's hard not to be encouraged right now if you're a Saints fan.

With the exception of their near 4th-quarter melt-down of their own against the Lions (though to be fair, some questionable officiating on several calls aided Detroit's come-back), the Saints have been playing "lights-out" football and are currently THE hottest team right now in the entire NFL.

But.....

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hinton, The New Orleans Advocate

The NFL is a tough business — and despite a remaining season schedule that will get a bit easier for the Saints over the next few weeks, they'll have to continue playing at a high level consistently if they hope to maintain their current status.

Still, the Saints have managed to now "sneak" into the NFC Playoff picture after Week #6 on the 2017 NFL calendar, and after how poorly the Saints began this season with 2 bad losses and of course the past 3 straight losing seasons; this current status certainly does feel pretty nice for the franchise, and its exuberant and super-passionate "Who Dat Nation" fan-base.

Just remember one thing though: it's VERY EARLY........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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