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Barry Hirstius

It’s Been an Awesome Year for the Saints — But Can it Be a December to Remember?

26 wins, 21 losses. And if you add games that have been played on New Year's Day or later, it's 28 wins and 24 losses. Those numbers are the win-loss record for the New Orleans Saints in the month of December or later, during the 11 total seasons so far of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era.

Later on today starting at 3:25 p.m. Central Standard time at the Merecedes-Benz Superdome, the Saints can add favorably to that number when they host the Carolina Panthers in what might be the biggest regular season game in December for New Orleans in recent memory.

New Orleans will play its long-anticipated "rematch" this evening with its NFC South Division rival in what will be as big and monumentally important of a game as they come, in today's NFL.

Some are even referring to this as the "Game of the Year" for both teams.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Though the teams currently have identical (8-3) records, the Saints technically are still in 1st Place; by virtue of their dominant 34-13 win over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium at Charlotte, North Carolina back in Week #3.

A win for New Orleans later on today would essentially give them a 2-game lead over the Panthers, since they would have a "season sweep" over Carolina for the first time since the 2011 season — the last year that the Saints won the division title.

And regardless of whatever transpires today, it's already been an awesome year in 2017 for the Saints.

Thanks to perhaps the best Draft Class ever in the team's entire 51-year history along with a solid Free Agent signing class this past off-season, the team is way ahead of schedule over its "rebuilding" phase.

As a result, with 5 games remaining in the 2017 season, the Saints currently sit tied atop the NFC South Division, 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.

And that's with one of the YOUNGEST rosters from top to bottom age-wise, in the entire NFL.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

However, those 5 remaining games all take place within this final month of the year — and no matter how special or "magical" of a season that it's been so far for New Orleans, nobody in the future will look back at this 2017 Saints season favorably if the team isn't able to have a "December to remember".

At first glance, it looks almost like an impossible task.

Not only do the Saints have to play the Panthers in such a huge game with everything "on the line" today, but then they have to BOUNCE RIGHT BACK and play their hated arch-rivals the (7-4) Falcons in just 4 days from now, in Atlanta on NBC Thursday Night Football.

Depending on what happens today between the Saints and the Panthers and for the Falcons in their game today at home in Atlanta against Minnesota, next Thursday's game between New Orleans and Atlanta could have just as big or huge NFC South Division and Playoff implications as today's games do.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Saints then catch somewhat of a break as they get 10 days worth of rest, before hosting the (4-7) New York Jets at home on Sunday, December 17th.

They then host the "rematch" with Atlanta in the Superdome on Christmas Eve (December 24th) in yet another game that could potentially have critical NFC South / Playoff implications, before closing out their 2017 regular season schedule at (4-7) Tampa Bay on New Year's Eve (December 31st).

That's not an "easy" remaining schedule by any stretch of the imagination, although you'd also have to believe that it's not an impossible one for the Saints to successfully navigate.

A 3-2 record in those games would allow the Saints to finish at (11-5), and "should" give the Saints a guaranteed spot in the Playoffs no matter what.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It's important to note however that with so many NFC teams that either have the same (8-3) record as the Saints (Rams, Panthers) or are only 1 game back of them (Falcons, Seahawks), even finishing with an (11-5) record could leave them "hanging out to dry" and have them MISS the Playoffs altogether, though it would seem very unlikely.

Bottom line and long story short: the Saints NEED to play well enough in these next 5 games and throughout the entire month of December, if they want the 2017 season to be remembered as a great one............

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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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