Somehow, some way, the Saints are 5-2 after everything that's happened to them. New Orleans picked up their third straight victory where they won by a three-point margin, and have won four straight after getting into a 1-2 hole. The Bears were their most recent victim, as New Orleans rallied from a 13-3 deficit and then gave up a 10-point lead of their own. Overtime for the second time this season helped decide this one.
It's been a little bit of everything in the five Saints victories, and while it's refreshing to see them win the type of games they have this season, it's probably not good enough come playoff time. Make no mistake about it, the Buccaneers should give Sean Payton a huge test in what seemingly becomes a very big NFC South showdown. In the same breath, this is a team that's still finding themselves approaching the midpoint of their season.
Sean Payton said on Monday, "I think we're still improving, I thought we got better yesterday in a tough environment. But I do think there's a grit element. And when you're able to play well in tight games and come out with a win, I think you develop a certain confidence and you're comfortable playing and overtime."
"We still feel like there are a number of things we can do better. And it's a lot easier to coach after you have a winning moment. And yet you bring them back in and you talk about hey, these are some things that we need to improve on when we play the next game or a more important game."
Those things the Saints need to improve on and get better at aren't a laundry list, and there's been big strides made by the team to adjust. Again, it hasn't been perfect, but the improvement is encouraging. For the fans, it's a cardiac experience of sorts watching New Orleans play week after week, but that's also nothing new. In the past, those type of close games are the ones the Saints would come up just short, so it's refreshing to see them be on the other side of things. Whether it's been a comeback, close win, or just making the biggest play when it matters the most, the Saints have been there.
The NFL's trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 3, which already saw New Orleans make one move, acquiring linebacker Kwon Alexander from the 49ers in exchange for a conditional 5th rounder (based on playing time) and Kiko Alonso. That figures to be a big pickup for the Saints defense, but Alexander hasn't played since Week 5 due to an ankle injury. He won't be in the immediate plans for the Saints due to the onboarding process, but looks to be available when New Orleans plays San Francisco in Week 10.
Drew Brees has been instrumental in helping lead the Saints to victory without their top two receiving threats in Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and they look to both be in the lineup this week. New Orleans should also get back Marquez Callaway, who emerged in a big way against the Panthers. All of the sudden, the team is almost at its full strength, and that's something that could be scary for the others teams in the league.
Meeting the Bucs in a rematch of Week 1 is going to take over all storylines this week, and this is an important game for both squads. For the Saints, it's a chance to really make a statement in the NFC and take back grasp of the division. For the Bucs, they'll certainly want revenge, and want to increase their lead on New Orleans and make true believers across the NFL. It'll truly be a test of who wants it more, and a Saints win can truly put them as one of the hottest teams in football.