Maybe it’s because I’m reading / watching a lot of Joe Campbell lately but I am looking for the narrative in everything these days. And for me, in sports, the narrative is the best part. The long story arch of a franchise over time, a team’s single season struggles, the changing of leads through a game, a player’s rise or descent from the bench to starter and back.
And the narrative for the New Orleans Saints through the rest of 2011 is rich indeed.
Think of them as the “soul takers.” They are Santa Muerta. They are Azrael, worshipers of Shiva, the Great Destroyer. Beginning with last night’s demoralizing defeat of the New York Giants, the Saints will now face three more teams in the next four weeks that are hoping for a wildcard birth and a chance at Super Bowl glory.
Any win against any of these teams will be more than just a win. Not only will each victory elevate the Saints a notch in the playoff picture and knock back their opponent but will also give the Saints the half point advantage in a tie due to head-to-head victories.
The Saints can take into these battles the experience of a recent Super Bowl victory but also the shame of last year’s first round playoff defeat, wounded warriors they.
And their foes?
Already vanquished was the last-Manning-standing New York Giants, a team that, when defeated in 2006 and 2009 has been a harbinger of deep playoff runs. The Giants now stand on the outside looking in on the playoff picture and it doesn’t get any easier for them this week vs. Green Bay at home. I’m actually pulling for them. Would love to see them back in the Dome in the first round. If we don’t catch the Niners of course.
Next up, a perennial loser franchise in Detroit that started strong but has been showing weakness as of late with a distraction on the Defensive line perhaps giving Drew Brees plenty of time to throw any number of touchdown passes. The Lions are also on the wrong side of the playoff standings. If they want to make the Playoffs for the first time in a decade or even perhaps win a playoff game for the first time since, I don’t know, I was a VIRGIN … then they’ll need to overcome the Angels of Death that are the Saints on Sunday. Further narrative can be found in this match up via the old “Christians thrown to the Lions” and “former perennial loser vs. current perennial loser” match ups.
Then, as if dashing the hopes of NFC teams weren’t enough, The Saints can blow into the AFC picture and badly damage the Titans hopes of getting in. The playoff picture is a little more competitive over there so any loss is going to hurt those teams. In the NFC it’s looking like two teams out of the Saints, Bears, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants and Lions won’t make it in. In the AFC it’s deeper than that as only two games separate the #1 seed and missing the playoffs with 10 teams still in the hunt. Perhaps the Titans will already be out of it by the time we play them though.
Not in contention but still a great narrative will be the Vikes week after next in Minnesota.
Then, a very good Atlanta team in a vendetta kind of mood following their loss at home earlier this year and a bad record versus Payton / Brees in general. Atlanta faces the Texans this weekend and then the schedule eases up for them with the exception of the Saints at home on Boxing Day. I will personally oversee the destruction!
Of course, the narrative could be that the teams are going to be playing their hearts out against the Saints who seem to have some issue with really staying motivated. Either way, the football’s going to be good!
A final note, if the Saints get the first round game at home it will fall right in with the Sugar Bowl and BCS championship, making it three amazing football events in one week at the Dome.