In early September, I had my doubts about the New Orleans Saints, mostly with a rebuilt defense that looked like a duck and quacked like a duck but we all know the preseason isn't all it is "quacked'' up to be.
I predicted an 8-8 finish— better than the 7-9 records in each of the past three seasons but not good enough to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
I did not think they would win the NFC South.
I also suggested this could be the end of the road for both coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans.
The Black and Gold has proved me wrong, blatantly wrong on many fronts, especially on defense under coordinator Dennis Allen, who projects to be a hot head coaching candidate at season's end if his X Men continue to play at a high level.
After eight games, I predicted the Saints would be 4-4, not 6-2 and atop the division as they are going into Sunday's compelling game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York.
And while I recognize the error of my ways, I am going to reboot and predict the second half of the season knowing what I know now about the Saints and their '17 draft class, most notably running back Alvin Kamara, tackle Ryan Ramczyk, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and injured linebacker Alex Anzalone (on IR) and key free agent signees, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., middle linebacker A.J. Klein and defensive end Alex Okafor.
These guys are good!
At Buffalo —Saints pack for the weather (cloudy, 40 degrees, slight chance of rain) and continue their winning ways on the road, moving to 4-1 away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Record: 7-2.
Washington —Saints return home and extend winning streak to eight games, matching their season-ending streak in 2011. Record: 8-2.
At LA Rams — First-year coach Sean McVay has the NFC West-leading Rams turning heads in LA-LA Land and snap Saints win streak. Record: 8-3.
Carolina — It all depends on which Cam Newton comes to play — good Cam or bad Cam. Panthers and good Cam avenge embarrassing home loss to Saints in Week 3. Record: 8-4.
At Atlanta — Saints return to a national stage on Thursday Night Football. Their first appearance on national TV in Week 1 ended dismally at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, site of Super Bowl LII. This time the ready-for-primetime Saints acquitt themselves well. Record: 9-4.
New York Jets —Coach Todd Bowles still has a job at this juncture but J-E-T-S are no match for NFC South-leading Saints.
Atlanta — I suspect this game will be flexed out of its scheduled noon slot into primetime viewing on Christmas Eve. Saints dash Falcons' playoff ho-ho-hopes and deliver a division championship to Who Dat Nation. Record: 11-4.
At Tampa Bay —Saints play starters and clinch first-round bye as No. 2 seed with a win and season sweep of Bucs. Record: 12-4.
BOTTOM LINE: Saints go from third to first and win the NFC South, earn first-round-bye and divisional home game and are poised to make a serious run at a second Lombardi Trophy.
Hey, stranger things have happened.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.