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Barry Hirstius

Are the Saints “For Real”? Now We’ve Reached the Point Where We Finally Find Out

You would think that after a 6-game winning streak and an ascension to the top of the NFC South Division, that the New Orleans Saints would finally earn the respect of those who cover the NFL on a daily basis.

But not everyone in the National Media is convinced that this Saints football team is "for real", based upon the opinions written in a handful of articles by several prominent writers throughout the past week.

I won't include any names so as to not "call out" any specific fellow Journalist in particular, but in a nutshell the prevailing thought from more than a couple of them is that they think the Saints still aren't a "legitimate threat"  because:

A). they haven’t really played the greatest teams in the League up to this point

And....

B). They've caught teams at inopportune moments, such as playing Detroit QB Matt Stafford AFTER he was hurt the week before; playing Green Bay the week AFTER they lost QB Aaron Rodgers; or faced an improved Chicago Bears team AFTER they made the switch in-season from a veteran (Mike Glennon) to a rookie QB (Mitchell Trubisky).

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

But yet meanwhile, the Saints actually have the 10th toughest strength of schedule in the NFL, and all they can do is simply play the games on that schedule. It's not like they had any control over WHEN the games would be played or in what specific order that they were arranged in, on the schedule itself.

Nevertheless, perhaps their lack of confidence in the Saints' abilities is more about the fact that prior to this current season, the Saints had finished with 3 straight (7-9) losing seasons and had one of the WORST defenses in the entire NFL for the past 5 years. 

Therefore, the Saints' current success only 8 games into this season so far, hasn't exactly swayed everyone to their side just yet.

The critics want to see even MORE positive results from this Saints team, before allowing themselves to go along with the assessment that New Orleans is in fact a legitimate Playoff contender; as the current League standings would seem to suggest.

Fair or unfair in one's eyes, that seems to be the general opinion of many throughout the NFL world at the moment.

But here's what can change all of that.

Beginning tomorrow afternoon in Buffalo, New York and stretching over a 3 week period that ends on Thanksgiving Weekend in Los Angeles, California, the Saints have now reached the point of their 2017 season where we'll finally find out if they truly are "for real" or not.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Tomorrow the Saints are in Buffalo, New York to face the Buffalo Bills at one of the toughest venues for all visiting NFL teams to play at: New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York just outside of Buffalo; and not far from the shore of Lake Erie.

The (5-3) Bills have been one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season, despite their most recent loss nearly 10 days ago on a Thursday Night in which they were beaten soundly by the New York Jets, losing 34-21. 

Prior to this season, the Bills were thought to be a "rebuilding" team, so this previously would have been looked at as a "sure win" for New Orleans when first looking at the schedule.

That Bills loss to the Jets means that they will be focused on getting back on track tomorrow against the Saints in a game where the temperature will be in the mid-40's, with a slight chance of wind and rain.

Bottom line: it won't be easy by any stretch, but if the Saints can go into Buffalo under adverse conditions and still leave with a win anyway, it would SPEAK VOLUMES about just how good they have been this year.

After the game in Buffalo, the Saints return home to the Superdome for a game against an always tough Washington Redskins team (4-4).

The Redskins have been up and down this year, but the fact of the matter is that they've seemed to have "had the Saints' number" in their several past meetings against New Orleans.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

The last time that they faced the Redskins in November of 2015, Washington QB Kirk Cousins was 20-for-25 for 324 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a PERFECT passer rating of 158.3 against the Saints defense, as the Redskins CRUSHED the Saints 47-14 — which eventually led to the firing of then-and-now-former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Washington will return a majority of the same players from that game in 2015, for their game at the Superdome  next Sunday.

So that won't be a "cake walk", by any stretch of the imagination.

Finally on Thanksgiving Weekend (the Sunday after Thanksgiving), the Saints take another road trip to face the RED HOT (and very much-improved) Los Angles Rams, who are currently (6-2) and the NFC West Division leaders.

Prior to the season, the Rams too were thought to be in "rebuilding mode", so that had been another game that when the schedule first came out, that Saints fans had probably 'checked off' as an easy win.

Photo by Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

But now, that game out in sunny L.A. against a suddenly very dangerous Rams team will be anything but easy, or a "Sunday picnic" filled with Thanksgiving left-overs.

The Rams have one of the most powerful and balanced offenses in the NFL, and have a defense that at times can be DOMINANT.

Make no mistake about it: the Rams are good. As in, DAMN GOOD.

And it doesn't end there for the Saints, either.

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.

So it goes without saying that for anyone who still believes that the Saints haven't proven themselves worthy of being considered "for real" or regarded as a legitimate NFL Playoff contender; we've now reached the point of the schedule where we'll finally find out if they actually are or they aren't.

Photo courtesy of Bill Feig, The Associated Press

You can't face a tougher 3-game stretch than the Bills, Redskins, and Rams in back-to-back-to-back weeks, and then still be considered "soft" after playing that part of the schedule.

If the Saints can just be mildly successful, and win 2 out of those 3 or perhaps even just win 1 out of 3 but play well in every game, it would be looked upon favorably by their biggest critics.

In any event, we're going to find out a lot about this 2017 New Orleans Saints football team in these next 3 weeks.

For Saints fans, the hope is that it will turn out to be something that they've been wanting to see, all along........

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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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