Last Modified: Saturday, November 10, 2012 11:54 PM
They have survived suspensions, coaching changes, rumors of wire tapping and contract negotiations, any of which would might have crippled other teams.
Yet here they are, halfway through the longest of seasons, in control of their own future.
The Saints, while granted, on wobble knees, remain standing.
That’s the good news.
The team many, including NFL officials, seemed to have left for dead back in July, still hold their playoff hopes in their hands.
There is, however, bad news.
At 3-5 there is no longer any margin for error, and they have already played the easiest portion of their schedule.
So is New Orleans’ hurricane glass half full, or already half empty?
Forget the wins for a moment. The number that matters is the five losses.
Five losses means the Saints, unless the Atlanta Falcons fall completely apart, are not going into the playoffs as a division champ. That leaves only one of two wild-card spots open.
Here is where not all hope is lost.
No 8-8 team is getting into the playoffs in the NFC this year. Numbers just don’t crunch that way. Even 9-7, which almost always has a team in the running down the stretch, is not likely good enough.
Too many NFC teams have gotten off to strong starts. A 10-6 record might even leave you on the outside this time.
So you can see the Saints clearly have their backs against the wall.
The good news is, if they can somehow find the defense that played last week against Philadelphia, finishing the season 7-1, while unlikely, is not out of the question.
Yes, they again gave up a ton of yards, and likely could not tackle a statue very well, but they did create turnovers. That, along with their high-powered offense, is what led to a Super Bowl championship not so long ago.
So they know the formula.
Now comes the hard part.
The Saints, for all their preseason talk about winning to show the world they can stand strong, claiming they were united and had a chip on their shoulder, have been soft.
Home losses to Washington and Kansas City are hard to explain. They will be even harder to rebound from when the final numbers are in.
It is all too possible that those games are the ones that doom this season.
However, today they can change all that.
If the Saints want to send a message all they have to do is beat the undefeated Falcons, who just this week began squawking about the perfect season.
A victory inside the Superdome would show the NFL the Saints are still relevant, still a force to be dealt with.
Playing New Orleans is scary for any team, especially in the playoffs.
Their offense is going to score, which makes opponents play a little tighter than usual knowing one mistake can quickly lead to seven points.
You don’t want to get into a shootout with Drew Brees.
Most likely the Falcons don’t want to see the Saints in the playoffs, either. Atlanta has had enough trouble in the postseason of late, so it would serve the Falcons well to administer the knockout blow today.
With the Saints’ record it is hard to imagine that they can make the playoffs with yet another home loss. There just won’t be enough time.
That makes today’s battle the most important yet this season, or at least until the next one a week from today.
Fact of the matter is, the Saints begin their playoffs right now.
It is not a great position to be in two weeks before Thanksgiving, but it is what it is. They are the ones who have made it so.
The only thing they have to hang their helmets on is the knowledge that they brought this mess upon themselves and they can get themselves out of it.
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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org