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Barry Hirstius

There’s No “Easy W” for the Saints Today, and the Schedule Only Gets Tougher

"There's no place like home". For the New Orleans Saints today against their NFC South Division rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that old saying is one that they hope can be applied towards their game that's slated to kickoff in a few short hours from now at 12 p.m. Central time inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The reasoning behind their desire today is due to the fact that recently, the Saints have practically 'owned' the Bucs at the Dome, winning 5 of the past 6 contests played in NOLA.

The only win for Tampa in then last 6 meetings at the Superdome took place during the 2015 season, in the infamous Week #2 game from that season where then-Buccaneers rookie and current starting QB Jameis Winston led Tampa to a 26-19 "upset" win over the heavily-favored Saints.

That was also the same game in which the Saints nearly lost Drew Brees for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury that he suffered on a hit that he never saw coming from then Tampa Bay defensive end Jacquies Smith. Brees would go on to miss only 1 game the following week at Carolina.

Besides that one game however, New Orleans (5-2) has been dominant against the Buccaneers on their home turf in recent seasons, and as leaders of the NFC South and winners of their last 5 games in a row, it's a trend they'd like to see continue against a (2-5) Tampa Bay team that's currently reeling from a 4-game losing streak.

However as you've no doubt heard all week including from us right here at the Saints News Network: this is still an NFC South divisional game, so you can throw out all of the stats and fancy numbers when these two teams face each other, because it will be a battle.

The Saints are a 7-point favorite in this contest, but of course as we also mentioned this week: the Saints have been huge favorites against Tampa Bay inside the Superdome before. and yet still lost to them.

So for any Saints fan that's expecting a "walk in the park" today, you might end up very disappointed.

Nevertheless, this is a game that the Saints need to win; because their schedule after this game today doesn't get any "easier" as had first originally been thought.

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

Next week, the Saints will travel to Buffalo, New York; to face the (5-3) Buffalo Bills at one of the toughest venues for all visiting NFL teams to play at: New Era Field, formerly known as Rich Stadium.

The Bills have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season, despite their most recent loss this past Thursday Night in which they were beaten soundly by the New York Jets, losing 34-21.

That loss to the Jets means that they will be angry and looking to get back on track against the Saints in that game. Even worse for New Orleans: the weather forecasts a week in advance say that the temperature will be in the mid-30's, with a chance of wind and rain.

Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News

Which means conditions won't be ideal next week, and an "easy W" isn't what you would expect given those circumstances. Prior to the season, the Bills were thought to be rebuilding their team, so you could have 'checked off' a win for New Orleans when looking at the schedule.

But that's not the case, anymore.

After the game in Buffalo, the Saints return home to the Superdome for a game against an always tough Washington Redskins team (3-4); which will then be immediately followed the next week by a road trip to face the very much-improved Los Angles Rams, who are (5-2).

In fact: if the season ended today?

The Rams (yes, THOSE Rams that were terrible last year) would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Prior to the season, the Rams too were thought to be in "rebuilding mode", so that's also yet another game that Saints fans had probably 'checked off' as an easy win on their team schedules hanging up on the wall at home; that now will be anything but easy.

Photo Credit: AP / Bill Feig

After the game at Los Angeles, the Saints regular season schedule concludes with 4 out of their final 5 games coming against NFC South Division opponents; including 2 of their final 3 games against their hated-arch rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.

Long story short, it ain't going to be the Sunday picnic that some Saints fans thought it was going to be.

Trust me: it's great to be optimistic about the Saints, considering that it wasn't all that long ago that we weren't even sure if they would win 5 games all year, much less win 5 straight games in a row.

But sometimes, things like a 5-game winning streak can make some of us lose perspective a bit, and make us forget that this is STILL the National Football League and not Pop Warner or high school.

NO NFL FRANCHISE is going to just simply "roll over" and quit playing all because the Saints are suddenly a "good team" once again.

So please: let's keep the predictions of the Saints going (14-2) or (13-3) to ourselves, for now.

Instead, let's be happy that the Saints as of this moment are "red hot"; and although they haven't exactly blown teams away, they're still finding ways to WIN each and every week — and that's damn impressive considering that they have yet to put together the "perfect game" on both sides of the ball.

Because when they finally do?

Watch out.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

So as the team prepares to face the Buccaneers this afternoon, just remember that if the Saints win by only 4 points and not by 40, it still counts as a "W" either way.

It just won't have been "easy", is all.

But this is the NFL — and in the pros, as well as the "game of life" itself — nothing ever is.................


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer 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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