My first inclination is the winner of the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams shootout Nov. 4 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome ultimately will claim home field advantage and host the NFC Conference championship Jan. 20.
And why not?
As of today, pound for pound, they clearly are the two best teams in the NFC.
Who’s better? Philadelphia? Chicago? Green Bay? Minnesota? Carolina? Not for my money, though the season remains young and full of promise for each of the aforementioned teams.
We’ll know a lot more about the Saints after back-to-back road games against the sack-happy Baltimore Ravens (4-2) at 3:05 p.m. Sunday (FOX) and the Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1) on Oct. 28 (7:20 p.m., NBC). But I believe the Saints are the real deal, especially if they pack for the road the defense that showed up in earlier wins against Cleveland, Giants and Redskins.
If not, then the mid-season showdown against the Rams two days before the mid-term elections will take on a whole different perspective for New Orleans, who tackle the Cincinnati Bengals on the road and the Eagles and Atlanta at home in consecutive weeks after the Rams game.
With no dog in the fight, I have the luxury of looking past the Ravens and Vikings to the Saints-Rams game but the Black and Gold are locked and loaded into the “one-game-at-a-time’‘ mindset under orders from Coach Sean Payton.
They seem to have regained their footing after getting knocked down at home by Tampa Bay and backed against the ropes by the Cleveland Browns in Weeks 1 and 2. They scored at will in wins against the Falcons (43 points), Giants (33) and Redskins (43) while playing respectably on defense.
Too, the Saints should be well rested coming off a bye week and fortified from an emotional high stemming from quarterback Drew Brees’ record-setting performance (26 of 29 for 363 yards and three TDs) against the Redskins on a national stage.
But that was then and this is now.
First up are the Ravens who blanked the Tennessee Titans 21-0 last Sunday and set a franchise record with 11 sacks.
All you need to know is this: Brees has never beaten the Ravens, losing once while playing for San Diego and three times with the Saints. The Ravens have limited him to nine TD passes with eight INTs, three resulting in pick 6s, and a dismal 64.8 passer rating in the second half of those four games.
The good news is Sunday’s forecast at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore calls for fall-like temperatures of 54 degrees, sunny skies, zero precipitation and 14 mph winds.
Rather Breesy wouldn’t you say?