The New Orleans Saints are 3-0 to start the season. The last time they got off to that kind of start was 2009, a season that ended with a Lombardi trophy in New Orleans.
Being undefeated at this point of the season is a breath of fresh air compared to last season, where the Saints didn’t get their first win until Week 5. Though the team is feeling great right now, all their hard work can be for naught if they don’t play their best football over the next three weeks, which will be the toughest string of games the Saints will have this season as they face the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, and New England Patriots.
The Dolphins come into the Superdome on Monday night with a surprising 3-0 record with close games over the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons. Though the Saints appear to be the better team, the Dolphins are team to be reckoned with. Ryan Tannehill, a somewhat forgotten young quarterback in this golden age of passers, is leading a productive offense with playmakers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Couple that with a defense featuring playmakers like rookie Dion Jordan, free agent acquisition Dannell Ellerbe, and former Falcon Brent Grimes (a thorn in the Saints’ side when he was in the division), and the Dolphins present a stiff test.
It doesn’t get any easier as the Saints then travel to Chicago to face the rejuvenated Chicago Bears. Jay Cutler, under the tutelage of offensive guru Marc Trestman, is having a nice year. And the defense, despite the loss of Brian Urlacher, hasn’t lost a step as they continue to force turnovers and score touchdowns carrying fantasy team everywhere. Even without Lovie Smith, the Bears still bring a physical brand of football that has been the Saints’ kryptonite for years. Cutler, along with Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, will be the stiffest test for the defense this season. Besides all that, the Saints have not won in Chicago in the Payton-Brees era.
If those two games weren’t enough, the Saints embark on a trek to Foxboro to battle it out with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. It is well documented the success the Patriots have had in the past, present, and surely future. And though the Patriots haven’t been at their best by their lofty standards, they are still 3-0 at this point.
The Patriots will be especially motivated. The last time the Patriots and Saints met, the Saints routed Brady and company 38-17 behind Brees’ perfect passer rating. In addition, Brady will have a chance to tie Drew Brees’ record, set last year, for most consecutive games with a touchdown, assuming that his streak is still active. After that, the Saints will then travel home for a well-deserved bye week.
This is one of the harshest sets of three games that any team could ask for as all the teams could very well be undefeated when they face the Saints. How they fare will certainly say wonders about the team’s character. And if the Saints end up taking 2 out of 3(or even all three) games, it will certainly put the rest of the league on notice.
The most important, and in my estimation the strongest test, of the three games will be the Bears because the outcome can be pivotal in playoff positioning later down the line. Being 3-0 is definitely a spot the Saints want to be in right now, but if they get too complacent, they can easily be .500 going into the bye.