Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
The New Orleans Saints are up in our series of team-by-team mailbags.
Paul in Boulder, Colo. writes: Hey Pat, Great recent article about Drew Brees and the upcoming NFC showdown in the Superdome. But, what I really want to hear from you, is your honest opinion: not CAN the Saints this take one, as I'm sure even some G-men fans believe that the Saints are good enough to win, but do you think they WILL win? Additionally, what proves the tipping point? Is it being in the 'Dome? Is it coming off the bye? Or shall we pin it on poor play from the Giants? Or, do you simply expect a great battle between two NFC front-runners, and the game could go either way? (I realize I'm giving you a way out with the last one, but know that I'm only looking for your honest, educated answer!)
Pat Yasinskas: Paul, appreciate your effort to get me to make a prediction, but I don’t make predictions on games. We’ve got enough other people on this site and on our television side that do that and they’re probably better at it than me. However, I will honestly tell you I like the Saints’ chances against the Giants. First, the Saints are a very good and very complete team, which I don’t think everyone realizes just yet. Second, they’re coming off the bye. I know their recent history coming off the bye isn’t impressive, but I think that’s a fluke. The bye should be an advantage. The Saints are healthier now than they’ve been all season and it didn’t hurt that Sean Payton and Gregg Williams had an extra week to game plan for the Giants. Finally, I think playing in the Superdome can be a huge boost for the Saints. When things are going well for the Saints, and they sure are right now, the Superdome can be as loud as any stadium in the league.
Ross in Boston writes: Pat, from your blog it is obvious the Saints have had trouble winning after the bye week. Any insight into whether or not they have stepped up intensity this week?
Pat Yasinskas: As I said in the answer to Paul, I think the losing streak off the bye is just a fluke. Can’t see any common pattern to it and it’s not just during Payton’s era. The Saints lost some week-after-the-bye games during Jim Haslett’s days. I think playing the Giants coming off a bye is nothing but a positive thing for the Saints. They’re healthy and they’re rested. Payton gave them a little extra time off last week and I’m sure this week’s practices were intense. Just having an undefeated team like the Giants coming to town should be enough to fire up any team.
Curtis in New Orleans writes: The NFC South is quickly turning into a two horse race. The Saints and Falcons aren't infallible so it stands to reason that they will lose a game or two down the line, affording Carolina and Tampa Bay an opportunity to right the ship and get back into the division race. What do you think the Bucs, and Panthers have to do to get back into the division race if the opportunity arises?
Pat Yasinskas: I think we can scratch the Bucs. They’ve got too far to go and they’re too far behind to get back in it this year. Carolina can’t be written off yet. Yes, the Panthers are 1-3, but they’ve got Tampa Bay on Sunday and Buffalo the following week. That could get them to 3-3 and give them some momentum. The Panthers have plenty of talent and could make a run if they can get back to .500, especially if they can win their two games against the Saints and the one remaining with Atlanta. But, realistically, I think this is a two-team race between the Saints and Falcons and a lot is going to depend on what happens in their two head-to-head meetings.