When the New Orleans Saints bumbled away a 27-21 defeat to the New York Giants last Sunday, it snapped a 15-game winning streak that the Saints had in the month of October. The home loss also snapped a 17-game winning streak that the team had at home in October.
New Orleans, now 2-2, must rebound quickly this Sunday on the road at Washington. They've been an inconsistent team so far, recording two impressive wins against Green Bay and at New England, but turning in listless performances on the road at Carolina and against an inferior Giants team.
Here is the Saints remaining schedule for the month of October.
WEEK 5 - WASHINGTON (AWAY)
New Orleans takes on a 2-2 Washington squad that has also had its trials. The Saints have a 10-17 all-time record against Washington, including a 5-8 mark on the road. Coach Sean Payton is 3-3 against them since being hired by the Saints in 2006, but just 1-2 in Washington.
Washington was one of the league's best defensive teams last season, but has struggled on that side of the ball in 2021. New Orleans is normally one of the NFL's best offensive teams under Payton and has run the ball well, but come into this game with the 31st ranked passing attack.
Even with an injury to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington has made some explosive plays offensively. The Saints counter with one of the league's best defensive units, despite a glaring stumble against New York last week.
Until Sean Payton takes the reins off QB Jameis Winston, the Saints will continue to win or lose based on their defensive performance.
The last time these teams met was in 2018. New Orleans pounded Washington by a score of 43-19 in front of a Monday Night television audience. The last time they met in Washington was during the 2015 season, with the Saints losing in a 47-14 rout.
WEEK 6 - BYE
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Saints, who started the year with several major contributors on both sides of the ball on the injured list. Since the opening game, New Orleans has lost other stars such as C Erik McCoy, LT Terron Armstead, LB Kwon Alexander, and DE Marcus Davenport with injuries.
All-Pro WR Michael Thomas, K Wil Lutz, CB Ken Crawley, and WR Tre'Quan Smith all started the year on injured reserve. Each is eligible to come off injured reserve by the bye week if healthy, along with Alexander and McCoy.
The return of a healthy Thomas provides a massive boost to a passing game that has struggled. Davenport and Alexander will add more disruption to the team's defense. Lutz is one of the most consistent kickers in the league. Armstead and McCoy are Pro Bowl caliber offensive linemen that allow the Saints to dominate teams up front.
WEEK 7 - SEATTLE (AWAY)
The return of several injured stars comes just in time for a Monday night road trip to one of the toughest venues in the league. The Seahawks, like the Saints, are a perennial playoff contender and one of the NFL's best home teams.
Seattle, currently 2-2, are an explosive offensive team led by QB Russell Wilson and a talented group of receivers. They are normally stout defensively, but have struggled on that side of the ball this season and have struggled against the pass for the last three years.
Seattle ranks dead last in total defense and against the run after four games and just 28th against the pass. A return of Thomas, McCoy, and possibly Armstead should solve many of the offensive inconsistencies that have plagued the Saints so far this season.
The all-time series between these teams is tied at 8-8, with the Saints going 4-6 in Seattle. That includes two heartbreaking playoff losses that ended the 2010 and 2013 seasons for New Orleans. Both those postseason losses were coached by Sean Payton, who owns a 4-3 record against the Seahawks.
The last time these teams met was during the 2019 season. Despite the injury absence of QB Drew Brees, the Saints pulled out a 33-27 road victory. New Orleans has a 2-3 record in Seattle under Payton.
WEEK 8 - TAMPA BAY (HOME)
In just their second game in the Superdome this season because of Hurricane Ida, the Saints host NFC South rival and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. New Orleans swept both regular season contests against the Buccaneers in 2020, but lost to Tampa Bay in the Division Playoff round at home.
The Buccaneers are prohibitive favorites to repeat as NFC champions because of QB Tom Brady, a talented crew of pass catchers, and a fearsome front seven on defense. New Orleans didn't play well against a similar defense at Carolina, but should have much of their offensive talent back.
The Buccaneers, currently 3-1, have had injuries in their secondary and have struggled to run the ball. Even in the playoff loss, the Saints showed that they have the defensive personnel to disrupt Brady and his receivers.
New Orleans leads the all-time series versus Tampa Bay, 37-22, including a 20-13 record against them at home. Since Payton took over as head coach, the Saints are 20-11 against the Buccaneers and 10-6 against them in the Superdome.
New Orleans has played dominating football over the last four years in October and November. They are 29-4 in those two months since 2017, including an impressive 13-2 mark on the road.
All these are meaningless numbers, of course, if the Saints don't play more consistent on the field. It starts with Sunday's matchup at Washington.
They still have a defense capable of shutting down any opponent, despite a disturbing performance against the Giants. Winston had his strongest game of the season against New York, but conservative play-calling once again short-circuited the offense.
The Saints have an incredible amount of talent returning to action either at or shortly after the bye. On paper, this should be a much stronger team at the end of the year than at the start.
In facing three likely NFC playoff contenders in their next three games, another strong October may be necessary to keep New Orleans on track for a postseason berth in 2021.