For the first time in NFL history two teams are undefeated after 11 games. If the Colts and Saints run the table and reach Super Bowl XLIV, they would face off in Land Shark Stadium, home of the Dolphins. How appropriate considering Miami is the only team in league history to go undefeated in a season, finishing 17-0 in 1972.
Now back to reality.
New Orleans and Indianapolis have as much chance of reaching the Super Bowl unbeaten as
Reason 1: Three of the past four teams that had the league's best record failed to win a playoff game that year. Might New Orleans or the Colts be the fourth in five years? I predict the Saints will finish 16-0 because they have a relatively soft schedule and need to keep winning to claim homefield over 10-1 Minnesota. The Colts will lose at least one game because coach
Reason 2: The playoffs are all about matchups, and Indianapolis could find itself facing a San Diego team that has knocked it out of the postseason each of the past two years -- on the road and at home. With no significant changes to either roster, why should this year be any different? As for the Saints, Minnesota has the defensive personnel to match up with New Orleans' potent offense; and
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here's a look at how the final five games of the regular season will go in the pursuit of perfection for the Saints and Colts:
The Titans have won five in a row since
It's a short week for the Saints, who are coming off an emotional win over the Patriots and facing a Washington team that has lost six of seven and has no chance for a winning season. The only thing the Redskins are losing faster than games is players; only 13 of the 22 players who started in Week 1 were in the opening lineup Sunday against Philadelphia. To beat the Saints you must score points, and Washington hasn't tallied more than 27 in a game this year. Conversely, New Orleans has scored at least 27 on 10 occasions.
The Broncos have the pass rush and secondary to slow (relative term) Indy's passing game. Where Denver will come up short is on offense, where it lacks the firepower to keep pace with Manning & Co. The Broncos are averaging only 17.8 points a game and have scored more than two offensive touchdowns in a game just once, in Week 2 against Cleveland. Indy's offense has put up three or more TDs in seven games -- and is complemented by a defense that's allowing only 16.7 points a game, third-fewest in the league.
At the midpoint of the season this was my pick for the Saints' first loss. But Atlanta has injury issues with QB
It's likely Indianapolis will have clinched homefield heading into the game, which could lead coach Caldwell to rest some of his starters. Even if he doesn't, it figures to be a tough game. Each of the past four meetings between Indy and Jacksonville was decided by a touchdown or less. Jacksonville lost three of the games, but it was by only two, seven and three points. Jacksonville will be battling for a playoff spot; Indy will be fighting off boredom.
The Cowboys have the personnel to match up with the Saints, particularly if offensive coordinator
By this point the Jets either are going to be counting down to their tee times, or fighting for a wild card spot. If it's the latter, they could make the game interesting if Caldwell rests his guys. Other than that, the Jets and rookie QB
The Bucs have played extremely hard for rookie coach
The Bills have played with emotion and purpose under interim coach
With perfection staring them in the face, the Saints won't squander the opportunity -- not with the uber-competitive