Winning Outside Is No Problem For The Saints
In order to obtain a top seed in the playoffs, a team must be able to win road games. The New Orleans Saints, unlike most teams, have been successful on the road and this has been a theme since the arrival of head coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees in 2006. This season, the Saints are 5-0 at home and 2-2 on the road. Four of the five home victories were blowouts, with their Week 1 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons being the only exception. The victories and defeats on the road have been by narrow margins.
The team has shown exceptional poise and grit in their road games this year minus their Week 9 matchup against the New York Jets, where the Saints looked much like the team from last year, displaying disorganization on offense and a lack of a pass rush on defense.
Dating back to the beginning of the 2006 season, the Saints are one of the best road teams in the league, holding a 35-25 record, which is second best behind the New England Patriots. In addition, they are tied for third in the league in winning percentage outdoors, having a 25-19 mark. To delve even further into the record books, the Saints are 6-11 on the road against teams with a winning record, good enough for fourth place since 2006. All of these stats correlate to several playoff appearances over the past seven years.
The one startling thing about the Saints play on the road this season is their inability to create offense and turn that offense into touchdowns. They have seven TDs in four road games versus 18 TDs in five home games. Aside from that, the team has done a good job at taking the lead early on the road and closing the door on any comeback attempts, excluding their loss to the Patriots.
The Saints most impressive road victory this season came against the Chicago Bears. Despite surrendering over 400 yards of total offense, New Orleans' defense thwarted the Bears attempts for a fourth quarter comeback. In addition, Brees earned his first career victory at Soldier Field after failing to do so his previous three appearances there. Wins like that can boost the morale of a team, and in this case, increase the confidence of an already confident team.
The Saints have a few tough road games left this season, including a Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, who have quietly pulled within one game of New Orleans for first place in the division. Also, they have the tough and nearly impossible task (it seems) of trying to defeat the Seahawks up in Seattle in a Monday night showdown Week 13.
A head scratching theme with this team is the fact that on a yearly basis, they always manage to lose focus briefly and fall to a beleaguered opponent. In 2010, the Saints fell to the lowly Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns, two teams that finished the season 5-11. In 2011, New Orleans had lackluster performances against the ghastly 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 4-12 St. Louis Rams. The Saints, having already secured the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, rested most of their starters against the Bucs.
Losing just one game against a subpar opponent can be detrimental to securing home field advantage. Looking at the remainder of their schedule, a couple of “trap games” to watch for are a visit to the Rams in Week 15 and the Saints final game of the season against the abysmal Buccaneers.
If the Saints take care of business, they will be well on their way to a first round bye and home field advantage. Should they falter, the road to the Super Bowl could become a lot more difficult.