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Should the Saints Be Considered One of the NFL’s “Elite” Teams for the Rest of the Season?

"Elite". In the National Football League every year, the term "elite" normally refers to a player or a team that stands out from among the best of a group. However, the word over the years has used so liberally, that it quite honestly has lost its meaning. For the New Orleans Saints this year however, it's a term that might accurately describe where the Black and Gold could end up by the end of January — assuming that they can keep winning consistently from week-to-week.

Most of the many thousands of brand new NFL "Power Rankings" articles this week have the (4-1) Saints ranked at #3, right behind the League's only 2 undefeated teams, the (5-0) Los Angeles Rams (who the Saints will play in a few weeks from now at the Superdome on November 4th) and the (5-0) Kansas City Chiefs.

However, many of New Orleans' biggest critics within the National Media believe that because of the Saints' notable "shaky start" to the season and the very questionable-at-times performance by their defense in a handful of games, they don't deserve to be ranked that high.

So based on that fact, here's a legitimate question to ask; which is:

Should the Saints be considered an "elite" team for the rest of the season?

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)

That obviously will be determined by many factors with each passing week, but clearly the Saints will simply need to do one main thing which of course is to continue winning games as they have during their current 4-game winning streak.

It hasn't always been pretty or worthy of any "style points", but the Saints have managed to win 4 in a row and retake the lead in the NFC South Division which they won last season, by showing the resiliency and moxie to come out victorious, even when things haven't quite gone their way.

And other than their godawful performance in the 48-40 Season Opening loss to Tampa Bay, the Saints can say that they've been the "better" team in all of the games that they've played thus far.

Now it goes without saying that none of the Saints' next 11 games won't be considered 'easy' by any stretch, especially since they probably have one of — if not THE — toughest remaining schedule left to be played in the entire League.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Among the teams that the Saints still have to play: road games against the Ravens at Baltimore, the Vikings at Minnesota, and the Bengals at Cincinnati; as well as home games against those undefeated Rams and the defending World Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

And who can forget: the Saints will play NFC South Division rival Carolina twice in their last 3 games of the season, when they play the Panthers at Charlotte, North Carolina on December 17th on ESPN's Monday Night Football; and then again in the Season Finale at the Superdome on December 30th.

But for now as the Saints organization enjoys the remainder of their well-deserved Bye Week, the debate can still be waged among NFL analysts as well as fans, as to whether or not New Orleans truly belongs in the "elite" conversation.

One thing that's evident is that the Rams and the Chiefs are the clear-cut #1 and #2 teams at the moment.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Through their first 5 games, the Rams have handled every challenge thrown their way, and have the rare combination of a team that possesses BOTH a great offense AND a great defense.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have been led by sensational young superstar and 2nd year QB Patrick Mahomes; who has thrown for 1,797 yards and 14 touchdowns while tossing only two interceptions and has some observers comparing him to a young Brett Favre when he first came into the League in the early 1990's.

But after those two teams, it's debatable as to whether the Saints should be #3 — but that's ONLY IF you believe that the (4-1) Cincinnati Bengals, the (3-1) Chicago Bears (featuring the League's #1 defensive player Khalil Mack), or the (3-2) New England Patriots (just because they are the Patriots) ought to be ranked ahead of New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Sean Gardner

As the Saints near closer to getting ready for their road game next week against the Ravens, the arguments among analysts and fans as to whether they should be considered one of the League's "elite" teams will likely continue.

But if the Saints can continue showing week-to-week improvement as they have during their current 4-game winning streak, then the term "elite" is one that the rest of the League likely will have to use to accurately depict what the Saints believe they already are: one of the NFL's best teams, in the 2018 Regular Season.......

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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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