Just a few days ago, a large portion of Saints fans completely lost their minds when after their loss to the Rams in Los Angeles last Sunday, I questioned if the Saints — who have one of the youngest rosters in the entire NFL right now that includes a handful of rookie and 2nd year players in key starting roles — were ready or mature enough yet to win the Super Bowl this year.
My opinion was based simply on the fact that this year's team is still GROWING and learning how to win games such as the one that they lost last week, and the one like they'll play again tomorrow and then just another 4 days later at Atlanta next Thursday Night.
It was my view that based on their performance against the Rams in which the team clearly didn't play one of its best games of the season, that there was almost little to no chance that this current team could potentially go on the road next month in the NFC Playoffs; and win a game at either Minneapolis against the #2 seed Vikings (where the Saints have already lost this season back in Week #2); or in Philadelphia at the #1 seed Eagles, who are (10-1) and have the League's best record and certainly are the 'hottest" team (they've won 9 in a row) right now.
I stand by that assessment.
The Saints are also (1-3) against other teams that they've played this season who like them, would be going to the Playoffs if the season ended today.
They've beaten Carolina who they play again tomorrow, and have lost to Minnesota, New England, and the Los Angeles Rams.
Now that stat might not seem like much, and maybe in the grand scheme of things, it isn't.
But "it is what it is" as the saying goes; which is to suggest that this team for all that is has managed to accomplish thus far this season after 11 games, still isn't "quite there" just yet.
A Playoff team, sure. But one capable of going all the way to (and winning) Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on February 4th?
I'm not convinced of that, at least not right at this very moment.
But it also doesn't mean that they still couldn't go on and actually win the Super Bowl anyway.
It just means that that I don't believe that the Saints are "battle-tested" enough yet to win the REALLY BIG games that count at this time of the year.
And trust me: I'd love for them to prove me completely wrong.
Remember: this is the very same team that just a few years ago had become COMPLETE GARBAGE by the end of the 2014 season; and in early 2015 slowly began the process of rebuilding and remodeling itself by getting rid of some locker room cancers that had began to erode and destroy the organization from within (Junior Gallette, Jimmy Graham, Brandon Browner, to name a few).
It's taken another couple of years for the Saints to reach this point, and now here they are:
With 5 games remaining in the 2017 season, the Saints currently sit tied atop the NFC South Division with tomorrow's opponent the Carolina Panthers at (8-3), are currently the #4 seed in the NFC Playoffs if the season were to end today, had an 8-game winning streak, and appear almost certain to be headed for their first trip to the Playoffs since 2013.
Long story short: the Saints — despite how "young" they might be — have already proven that they're a damn good team. But the real question is: now can they go out and show everyone that they're GREAT???
That question will be answered in a little over 24 hours from now when the Saints host the Panthers in what might be their biggest game of the entire season.
A win gives the Saints essentially a 2-game lead over Carolina since they already have beaten them head-to-head in Week #3, and would almost put them in the proverbial 'driver's seat' to win the NFC South Division and make the Playoffs.
However, a loss to the Panthers could drop the Saints as far down as the #5 seed; and with a game coming up just 4 days after tomorrow's game when the Saints have to travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, the Saints could actually have to FIGHT their way into the Playoffs — to avoid being left out of them altogether.
In other words, the Saints could go from the penthouse to the outhouse, REAL QUICK.
Is that a negative or a pessimistic view? Of course it is.
But it's also a REALISTIC view.
This is the NFL, not the Pee Wee Leagues or Pop Warner where your kids and your Grandkids play.
This is BIG TIME football, and it ain't always fair.
And nobody cares that the Saints have injuries.
Nobody cares that the Saints might be missing some of their very best players and will still have to win a critically important game without them.
EVERY NFL team has injuries at this time of year. It's just a part of every-day-life in the sport of Professional Football.
It's not for the faint of heart, and it's definitely not for fans that choose to view everything through a Black and Gold lens, with little fleur-de-lis dancing around everywhere.
Tomorrow at the Superdome we'll see if the Saints can not only just be as good as they've been all season long for the most part, but we'll see if they can also be great.
A win over the Panthers would show everyone that they're certainly deserving of being considered among the NFL's truly elite teams, or "the best of the best" if you prefer that term.
Then if the Saints are able to turn right around and win AGAIN just 4 days later on the road, when they face the hated arch-rival Falcons on Thursday Night Football?
That would have to put them near the top of any Power Ranking or list of the League's very best teams as the NFL begins to near the end of its 2017 regular season.
And who knows — maybe it could even make the Saints not only just one of the League's GREAT teams, but one that could become "super" in February.
Starting tomorrow at 3:25 p.m. Central time, we're all soon about to find out....................