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Saints hold winning NFC hand so far

As the smoke clears through five weeks in the NFC, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have emerged as top title contenders (Photo: Parker Waters).As the smoke clears through five weeks in the NFC, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have emerged as top title contenders (Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS -- After winning wire-to-wire against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the undefeated New Orleans Saints are playing with house money.

That's the way I see Sunday's matchup against the once-defeated New England Patriots at the upscale House that Kraft Built known as Gillette Stadium.

Skinning Da Bears is a big win inside the conference and gives the lone NFC unbeaten team a little wiggle room. It also didn't hurt that Indianapolis knocked Seattle from the unbeaten ranks. Why? Because at the very least, the Saints will have come away with a split on the road against two very good football teams. That is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Beating Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the Commonweath of Massachusetts would be lagniappe, an extra helping of lump crab over a savory piece of speckled trout, catfish, flounder or red snapper, if you will.

You get the picture.

We can debate the merits of being 6-0 or 5-1 going into the bye week. The former sounds better perhaps, plus it's always nice to get a win going into the break. But 5-1 ain't bad. How many would have sprinted to take that record if offered before the season?

Don't lose sight of the big picture.

The small picture is that take-it-one-game-at-a-time mentality. Go ahead, think like Sean Payton and Drew Brees if you choose. They get paid big money to live in a cocoon during the football season. I say step out on a thin limb, break free from those chains that bind, be adventurous, speed forward down the highway of life.

Look ahead, far, far ahead into next month and beyond.

For us brave hearts, the big picture is not New England. It's not the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets after the bye. For Super Bowl-caliber teams, the Bills and J-E-T-S are merely the next teams on the NFL schedule, annoying speed bumps that serve only to slow one down.

I've seen enough of Rob Ryan's devil-be-damned defense to believe the born-again Saints will be 8-0 -- no worse than 7-1 -- with a stranglehold on the NFC South at the midway point of the season. They already hold a commanding lead in the division after Monday night's shocking win by the underdog Jets in Atlanta, 30-28.

My, my, my, what a difference a year makes. At this point a year ago, the Falcons were riding high at 5-0 and the Saints were 1-4. Now the roles are reversed.

For a Saints team now thinking homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, the big picture is a potentially murderous four-game stretch against Dallas and San Francisco at home and Atlanta and Seattle on the road.

Weeks 10 through 13 are where the Saints season will be won or lost.

So stay locked in the moment if you want. I'm gettin' shiggy wit' it. I'm high-stepping into the future. I'm going to the casino on Sunday. I'm betting No. 9 stays healthy. I can't lose.

I'm playing with house money.

Until we meet again.


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