“Team.” It’s a word that when defined in the dictionary, has multiple meanings either as a noun or a verb. But when it comes to the NFL and the sport of professional football, it’s a word that refers to a group of players that band together for a common cause or to achieve an ultimate goal. For the 2019 New Orleans Saints football team, that goal is winning the Super Bowl — an accomplishment that in the last few years has eluded them in the most absolute heartbreaking ways possible. However, through the current season’s first eight games, the Black and Gold’s outstanding overall performance in spite of what some thought would be against very unfavorable odds has given the word ‘team’ even further relevance.
By now. we’re all familiar with the story of how New Orleans was able to win their next five games in a row, after they lost future NFL Hall of Famer and #1 quarterback Drew Brees from their starting line-up with a torn thumb ligament that he initially suffered during a Week #2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
A combination of factors that included a phenomenal coaching effort by head coach Sean Payton and his staff, the stellar play of their significantly-improved defense, and the steady guidance of the offense by back-up QB Teddy Bridgewater, allowed the Saints to overcome those unfavorable odds in what can only be described as a total and complete team effort.
Now as the 2019 NFL Season enters into its 2nd half, Brees has since returned to action and the Saints’ winning streak is now at six in a row; as they have improved their win-loss record to 7-1 and currently sit two games ahead of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South Division standings.
Arguably, one could make a strong case that from the top all the way down to the very bottom of their 53-man roster, that the Saints might actually be THE top team in the NFL at the moment. That particular observation, of course, is strictly in the eye of the beholder, and as such it’s reflective of how the Saints are ranked in any one of various “NFL Power Rankings” articles that currently are available to be read on the internet.
That said: for the sake of sounding like “homers” that are completely 100% in favor of all things associated with the Black and Gold, this morning here is our very own version of the NFL Power Rankings; specifically with the Top 5 teams listed in order from one-to-five.
1. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-1), NFC SOUTH DIVISION LEADERS
Some might scoff at the notion that we have the one-loss Saints ranked ahead of the undefeated 49ers, but that’s simply due to the fact that the Saints have played a tougher 1st-half-of-the-season schedule and have earned more “quality wins” (Houston, Seattle, and Dallas) than San Francisco has (the 49ers will have their first real true test of the season next week, when they host Seattle at home).
Is it safe to say the Saints are the best team in football right now? 49ers are no joke, but it's hard to not say the Saints.
— AllSaintsConsidered.com (@AllSaintsBlog) November 4, 2019
Winners in their past six straight games, the Saints were off last week while they were on their scheduled-bye. Now with the return of Brees back under center along with their defensive unit playing at an unparalleled level of top-notch performance, New Orleans is poised to earn the #1 overall playoff seed in the NFC.
Deciding which of the two teams is actually the better one is akin to splitting hairs, but you could flip-flop one for the other and not be wrong. One thing to keep in mind: the Saints and 49ers will meet in a looming head-to-head showdown at the Superdome, on December 8th.
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (8-0), NFC WEST DIVISION LEADERS
And then there was one….
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 4, 2019
The League’s only remaining unbeaten team, San Francisco has surprised more than just a few NFL observers and analysts with their ‘red-hot’ start, a start that not too many folks saw coming following their dismal (4-12) win-loss record from the previous season before in 2018.
This season the 49ers have improved dramatically on the defensive side of the football, and with their starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo growing more comfortable within head coach Kyle Shanahan‘s offensive scheme and the team’s running game leading the NFL in total rushing yards, San Francisco will be a team to be reckoned with once the Playoffs arrive.
The upcoming weeks ahead will ultimately determine where San Francisco will be seeded overall once the Playoffs arrive since the 2nd half of their schedule is considerably tougher than the 1st half was. Besides hosting Seattle next week at home, they will also face the Packers, Saints, Ravens, Rams, and the Seahawks again in Seattle. That’s no easy stretch by any means and one that potentially could “make or break” their entire season.
3. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-1), AFC EAST DIVISION LEADERS
On to the next one. pic.twitter.com/aa4u56IwNz
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 28, 2019
The defending Super Bowl champions had been the League’s one other undefeated team but were handed their first loss of the season at home this past weekend by fellow AFC Playoff contender Baltimore. This week the Patriots will be on their bye week and will try to correct some of the issues that the Ravens were able to expose (particularly at defending the run) before they head into the final stretch run of the regular season.
One common thing that the Patriots had with the 49ers as the League’s two-previously unbeaten teams was that they too have played what some would consider a ‘soft’ 1st-half-season schedule, but now are about to face some much tougher competition. New England will next face Philadelphia and Dallas in back-to-back weeks; which will be followed by subsequent games against AFC Playoff contenders Houston, Kansas City, and Buffalo.
That said, the Patriots are still the defending champions of the NFL until someone finally knocks them off; and no one honestly expects that they’ll be anything less than the likely #1 overall seed in the AFC, once the NFL Playoffs arrive in the 2nd weekend of January.
4. BALTIMORE RAVENS (6-2), AFC NORTH DIVISION LEADERS
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens take down the Patriots! pic.twitter.com/aDnKonjEHA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 4, 2019
Baltimore has rebounded very nicely after they were beaten twice recently in back-to-back weeks, in an upset loss at the hands of struggling Cleveland and then a tough road loss at Kansas City to the Chiefs.
The Ravens are coming off their somewhat stunning 37-20 beat-down of the defending champion Patriots, and along with New England and Kansas City will be in a hotly-contested three-way battle in the weeks ahead to secure the top playoff seed in the AFC.
Led by 2nd year QB sensation and current League MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, a power-running game featuring former Saints RB Mark Ingram, and an always-tough defensive unit, AFC North Division-leading Baltimore is “poised to make noise” not only just in the upcoming final stretch-run of the regular season. but also what they hope will become a playoff run all the way to a Super Bowl championship of their own.
5. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-2), 2nd PLACE IN THE NFC WEST DIVISION
— Joey Hunt (@joeyhunt53) November 4, 2019
The Seahawks survived an upset bid by Tampa Bay at home in Seattle and were able to squeak out a 40-34 overtime victory that kept them within striking distance of the unbeaten 49ers, who they will face this Sunday at San Francisco and then again a 2nd time in the regular season finale in Week #17 at Seattle.
While the Seahawks still have a decent shot at overtaking San Fran for the division title, they seemed all but destined for a Wild Card berth and potentially could be a team that the Saints will face again in the post-season (New Orleans beat Seattle by a score of 33-27, back in Week #3).
The Seahawks will remain a viable threat come playoff-time no matter how they eventually finish win-loss wise, thanks to veteran QB Russell Wilson; who might be having his best season ever and as of this very moment is considered another leading candidate for the League MVP award. But first, they have to get to the playoffs — a feat that they can get an early jump on, by attempting to beat the undefeated 49ers this coming Sunday.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP 10:
6. Green Bay Packers 7. Kansas City Chiefs 8. Minnesota Vikings 9. Houston Texans 10. Buffalo Bills
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius