Brian Allee-Walsh

Close your eyes: Can you see the New Orleans Saints playing in Super Bowl LII?

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, file photo, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs in for a game winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis. Diggs had a 61-yard touchdown reception on the final play for Minnesota to beat New Orleans and advance in the playoffs.
FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, file photo, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs in for a game winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL divisional football playoff game in Minneapolis. Diggs had a 61-yard touchdown reception on the final play for Minnesota to beat New Orleans and advance in the playoffs. AP / File

Untold numbers of Who Dat fans worldwide will be watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday believing wholeheartedly that the wrong team is playing the New England Patriots for the coveted Lombardi Trophy.

Deep down, their beloved New Orleans Saints ...

Coulda been representing the NFC instead of the Philadelphia Eagles ...

Woulda been on center stage at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota ..

And shoulda beaten the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs three weeks ago ...

If not for the freshly minted “Minneapolis Miracle.”

I won’t dredge up the painful specifics of the improbable 61-yard walk-off touchdown pass, other than to say NBC Sports unwittingly will return Black and Gold fans and the Saints organization to the scene of the crime on the night of Jan. 14 when Vikings quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Stefon Diggs changed the course of history in the blink of an eye.

It will be impossible to watch Super Bowl LII and not imagine the Saints playing on a worldwide stage and how they would have fared against the dynastic Patriots who are owned by Bob Kraft, coached by Bill Belichick and led by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

How Saints coach Sean Payton would have matched wits against a Patriots’ defense under the direction of both Belichick and current coordinator/future Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

How Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would have game-planned against current Patriots offensive coordinator and future Indianapolis Colts head coach Josh McDaniels.

How Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the Boom & Zoom running back tandem of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas would have acquitted themselves in the rematch against the defending league champions. Remember, the Patriots came into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 2, amassed 555 yards and exited with a convincing 36-20 victory.

How Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Jordan would have schemed to disrupt the unflappable 40-year-old Brady, a four-time Super Bowl MVP who’s gunning for his sixth league championship ring.

How Saints rookie shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore would have shadowed former New Orleans wideout Brandin Cooks and still kept one eye on “Playoff’’ Danny Amendola.

How the Saints would have stacked their defense to contain Gronkowski, the Patriots’ iconic tight end who has been cleared to play after completing the league’s five-step concussion protocol. Rookie safety Marcus Williams might have drawn this assignment had he been able to bring Diggs to the ground during those final fate-filled seconds three weeks ago.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda!

We’ll never know, will we?

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