After watching Sunday’s total beat down of the Cincinnati Bengals at chilly, sun-splashed Paul Brown Stadium, I can think of only one team that stands in the way of the New Orleans Saints reaching Super Bowl LIII.
The New Orleans Saints.
The 51-14 victory wasn’t perfect but it came damn close.
The destruction was evident both on the scoreboard and in the Saints locker room. Before the game, a highly agitated Saints coach Sean Payton smashed an annoying fire alarm that repeatedly went off and disrupted his team’s preparation.
Then, the Saints went out and overwhelmed the home team for their eighth straight win, scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions and holding a commanding 35-7 lead at halftime. They scored on their first nine possessions and ran out the clock on their 10th, essentially rendering punter Thomas Morstead useless except for holding on three made field attempts and six extra points by kicker Wil Lutz.
And to think the game was tied at 7 after one quarter.
The Saints would score 44 unanswered points over the next 2 1/2 quarters, the final three with 7:17 remaining under backup QB Teddy Bridgewater, who finally broke a sweat in a New Orleans uniform.
You know things are out of hand when Ironman Drew Brees comes off the field. He takes great pride in finishing what he starts, and the damage had been done by then — on the field and off.
Brees continued his MVP-caliber season, completing 22 of 25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns for a stellar 150.4 passer rating. He now has 509 career TD passes, one more than Brett Favre and trailing only Peyton Manning (539) for the NFL’s all-time lead.
Now it’s on to a Sunday matinee at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (3:25 p.m., FOX) against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who self-destructed on a national stage and lost to the visiting Dallas Cowboys 27-20 at Lincoln Financial Field.
These Eagles pale in comparison to the 2017 Eagles who shocked the football world under backup QB Nick Foles and bested the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII.
New Orleans now is 5-0 on the road with victories over Atlanta, NY Giants, Baltimore, Minnesota and Cincinnati and remains the team to catch in the NFC thanks to a home win over the then-undefeated Los Angeles Rams in Week 9.
In other words, the Saints are poised to run the table, defend their NFC South title, and go into the postseason with a 15-1 record and homefield advantage.
As long as the Black and Gold refrain from eating the proverbial cheese, stay healthy and continue to embrace prosperity, they have nothing to fear but themselves.