If you like sports clichés, the 2012 New Orleans Saints are your type of team. They embody so many adages that coaches and players like to repeat. This week New Orleans travels to Oakland. When the 4-5 Saints meet the 3-6 Raiders, throw out the records, not because it is a really hostile rivalry, but because neither team is going anywhere.
New Orleans started the season 0-4. Remember, you can't win the Super Bowl in September and October, but you can lose it. Since then they've rolled off four wins in five tries. But you aren't supposed to talk about the playoffs until a team reaches .500.
Facing a Raider team that has given up 42 and 55 points the last two weeks in loses against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, it seems the door is open for New Orleans to even their record at 5-5. Not only do the Raiders allow more points than any other team in the league, their offense is one dimensional. Oakland ranks ahead of only Arizona in rushing offense. Raider QB Carson Palmer has been one of the few bright spots for a team that has won three times, with an overtime victory at home against Jacksonville, and a four turnover performance from the dreadful Chiefs accounting for two of the three victories. That being said, Palmer is likely to have another good game.
If defense wins championships, it is very bad news for the Saints. Not only is the New Orleans defense last in the league, they allow nearly 70 yards more per game than any other foe in the NFL. For Palmer, this means an opportunity to put up big numbers for a third straight week. During his last two games the Raider QB has tossed six TD's while passing for 782 yards. The Saints pass defense has allowed nearly 1100 yards in the air and nine touchdowns during the last three weeks.
And finally, you can only play the teams that are on your schedule. For the Saints that means three straight division leaders after today's game. If New Orleans wins to get to 5-5, they will still be a game behind Minnesota, Seattle, and likely Tampa Bay in the race for sixth and final NFC playoff spot. The Saints aren't buried but they face an uphill climb. The Raiders need to consider whether they're going to be seeking a seventh head coach in nine years following the season. After all, Oakland does have a commitment to excellence.