Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Power Rankings: Preseason: 18. This week: 1.
Where they stand: Pretty much perfect. They’re undefeated and the rest of the schedule isn’t that difficult. As expected, the Saints are very good on offense. Quarterback Drew Brees is even better now that he has Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey healthy. It also doesn’t hurt that the Saints have suddenly developed a running game, highlighted by Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. But the real reason the Saints are so different than last year is their defense. They’ve gone from being very bad to being very good. Give credit to new coordinator Gregg Williams for changing the scheme and the attitude. But also give credit to newcomers like safety Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer for making things happen on the field.
Disappointments: You have to look pretty hard to find any disappointments here. Just about everything that can go right has gone right. If you want to count the injury to left tackle Jammal Brown as a disappointment, go ahead. But the Saints have done a pretty nice job of moving on with Jermon Bushrod in that role. If you want to jump on everybody’s favorite target, you can point at Reggie Bush. This was supposed to be the year he proved he could run between the tackles. Instead, he’s shown he’s a role player as Bell and Thomas have been doing most of the running.
Surprises: Take your pick of about a dozen. Let’s start with Sharper. He’s 33 and there were some people who thought he was washed up when the Saints signed him. Instead, Sharper is playing like a potential defensive player of the year. Greer also has turned out to be an excellent free-agent signing. Defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, who’ve been called underachievers in the past, are suddenly achieving. Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who was out of the league for two years, has earned a starting role and been better than anyone could have imagined. Oh, you want one more surprise: How about Shockey? Ever since that little offseason incident in Las Vegas, he’s been on his best behavior, playing and acting like a true team player. That's a very nice surprise.
Outlook: How can you not like the Saints’ chances? Officially, they’re 8-0, but they’ve got St. Louis and Tampa Bay in their next two games, so let’s go ahead and put them down for double-digit wins. The only games left on the schedule that even look challenging are Dallas, Atlanta and New England. Fans already are talking about the possibility of an undefeated regular season. That’s great and it’s possible, but let’s focus on more important things -- like getting to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. To do that, the Saints have to hit their stride in January. They have to stay healthy and there are plenty of little things they can improve on in the second half of the season.