As a Saints fan, ask yourself this question: could the Saints go into Philadelphia or Minneapolis, and beat either the (10-1) Eagles or the (9-2) Vikings on the road if they met in the Divisional Playoffs or the NFC Championship Game coming up in January?
If you answered "no", then chances are that you see this current Saints team after yesterday's loss in Los Angeles to the Rams, for what they truly are: a young, up-and-coming team on the rise, that still has plenty of growing up to do.
And if you answered "yes"?
Then either you're just a die-hard fan who allows your faith, devotion, and loyalty to all things Black and Gold with a fleur-de-lis on it, to override logic and perhaps even common sense, or —you're simply just not in touch with reality.
As of this moment, it would appear that either the Eagles or the Vikings would have be considered the favorites from the NFC to make it to the Super Bowl, as their continued red-hot play of the past several weeks would seem to suggest.
That's not to say that New Orleans is incapable of winning the Super Bowl, because that would be a false statement.
Heck, any team can win the Super Bowl. Go ask Eli Manning.
But after watching the Saints give one of their more "less-than-stellar" performances during the season yesterday out in the brightly-lit glare of Hollywood, California; you'd clearly be stretching the truth to say that the Saints are on par (or equal) with either Philadelphia or Minnesota (who beat the Saints back in Week #2 in Minneapolis).
Yesterday the Saints were beaten on the road by a team that for intents and purposes, are the equivalent to them as far as how good they are as a team overall, or rank within the League's "upper tier".
The Rams weren't a "better" team than the Saints are, on paper. If these two teams played 10 times, they'd probably split the games, 5 to 5.
But yesterday, the Rams were the better team for at least 60 minutes. End of story.
Yes, the Saints had some key players missing in that game. But what NFL team DOESN'T have injuries to key players at this time of the year?
Bottom line is that the Saints weren't good enough to go on the road and get a critical conference win against an opponent on the same level as they are, so expecting them to go into Philadelphia or Minnesota in January and come away with a "do-or-die" victory to get to the Super Bowl, is a foolhardy notion to say the least.
The funny thing is that by beating the Saints, all the Rams managed to do was essentially trade places with New Orleans in the current conference playoff seedings; as L.A. now has taken over the #3 spot, while dropping the Saints down to #4.
But yesterday's loss aside, now New Orleans is about to face its toughest challenge all season long: when they host the visiting (8-3) Carolina Panthers this coming Sunday at the Superdome; which is then immediately followed up just 4 days later with a trip to Atlanta for Thursday Night Football, when they face the (7-4) Falcons.
It's clear that the NFL schedule-makers didn't do the Saints any favors, especially since the NFC South is as competitive as its ever been since its inception in 2002.
As of right now, all 3 teams — New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta — would make the NFL Playoffs in 6 weeks from now; which would be among only of the handful of times in NFL history that 3 teams from the same division all qualified for the post-season in the same year.
But before they can even worry about winning their division with 5 games left to play, now they suddenly find themselves having to prove that they even belong to be where they are, after yesterday's wildly inconsistent performance.
There's no way that the Saints will beat Carolina (whom New Orleans has opened as a 4-point favorite to beat at home next Sunday) or Atlanta playing the same way that they played yesterday.
And they won't beat the Rams and especially not Philadelphia or Minnesota, if the team that showed up yesterday in Los Angeles showed up like that in Philadelphia or Minneapolis.
Look at from this perspective: NOBODY expected the Saints to be (8-3) at this point, so there's no reason to be disappointed.
It's hard to win A SINGLE GAME in the NFL, much less win 8 of them in a row.
This year's sudden turnaround is because the Saints have grown from being a young and inexperienced 7-9 team a year ago, into one of the League's more promising, up-and-coming young teams of the future — boosted by a "Grand Slam" 2017 Draft class and a wily old veteran gunslinger at QB, hoping to get one last shot a championship before he rides off into the sunset.
But as yesterday reminded us: outside of the soon-to-be 39 year old Drew Brees and 34-year old veteran right tackle Zach Strief, this is STILL one of the NFL's youngest rosters from top to bottom.
The 2017 New Orleans Saints still have a lot of growing up to do.
Perhaps that's indicated by their 1-3 record against other teams currently in the Playoff seedings if the season ended today (beat Carolina, lost to Minnesota, New England from the AFC, and the Rams).
And it's for that reason, that maybe the Saints just aren't good enough to make it to the Super Bowl.
At least not yet, anyway.........