The New Orleans Saints have not had a record over .500 in the month of December since 2020. Drew Brees was the franchise quarterback, Sean Payton was still the head coach, and times certainly felt miles away from where they are now.
Even in Payton’s final season in 2021 where the Saints finished 9-8 overall and missed out on the playoffs due to tiebreakers, they still never spent a day in December above .500. Their surge came too late, as they won four of the last five but that was not enough to overcome a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season.
The results of the post-Brees era have been simple. The Saints have been stuck in mediocrity, if not below mediocrity. Each team has flirted with success, only to fall short of creating and fulfilling true momentum. Last year’s team was much like the year prior, winning three of the last four but getting things going too late to overcome a 4-9 start.
Plenty can and will be said about the state of this organization at year’s end. Coaches, players, and perhaps even front-office members will all be evaluated and it will be determined if changes need to be made. However, the focus right now is on the opportunity this specific Saints’ team still somehow has.
There are three games left in the 2023 season, and the Saints’ record sits at 7-7. While plenty of playoff tiebreaker scenarios exist if the Saints win just one or two of the next three games, one path is simple: win out, and win the division. New Orleans has the opportunity to control their own destiny, win the division, and host a playoff game. The path has some obstacles, with none bigger than what stands in front of them on Thursday night. let’s evaluate the remaining matchups.
- Thursday, December 22nd @ Los Angeles Rams (7-7)
There is no doubt that the most difficult matchup and set of circumstances sits in front of the Saints this week. The opponent is the Los Angeles Rams, whose record sits at 7-7. Do not let that fool you, however, as this team has won four of their last five after a 3-6 start. Cooper Kupp made his return in October and now has gone over 100 yards in each of his last two games. The biggest factor may be that this game is on a Thursday and in Los Angeles. The Saints will have to overcome a two-time-zone difference on a short week in this matchup.
- Sunday, December 31st @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)
This may not be what Saints fans want to hear, but there are plenty of parallels between the Saints and Bucs. A Hall of Fame quarterback departing, an aging defensive core, but enough talent to feel like winning now was still possible. They are both 7-7, and this game very well could be to decide the NFC South.
- Sunday, January 7th vs Atlanta Falcons (6-8)
The Falcons have continued to be indecisive at the quarterback position, flipping from Desmond Ridder to Taylor Heinicke, then going back to Ridder, and now back to Heinicke. This game should be very winnable, but also might depend on what the situation is heading into the final week and who is still alive for the playoffs.
Plenty is left to be decided about this entire Saints’ team from the top down. We will see if anything this group is sustainable in the future. However, this time around they have an opportunity to create their own opportunity before it’s too late.
Dawson Eiserloh is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.