The New Orleans Saints currently stand at 3-1 atop the NFC South. There’s little doubt anyone would have taken that start before the season, especially with the absence of running back Mark Ingram. All the media is salivating over the Saints and have them in the top five of most of the power rankings. Still, the toughest quarter of games starts on Monday Night Football.
Next Four Games of New Orleans Saints Schedule the Biggest Test of the Year
The Next Four Opponents are 10-4-1
The 16-game season can be broken down into four quarters. Each quarter consists of four games. Additionally, all four of the opponents upcoming may be playoff contenders come December. The Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams were picked by many to make a run to contend for the NFC for sure. On the other hand, the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens have overachieved so far.
To keep this all in perspective, the Saints have really only beat one good team. The win over the Atlanta Falcons on the road was critical. It was not only a win on the road but a crucial NFC South triumph that could be a tiebreaker later in the season. Still, that win was against a struggling 1-3 Falcons team. The Falcons look to be in the mix as the season goes on. But the assessment of the black and gold is still a work in progress.
One thing is for sure. The return of Ingram cannot be underestimated. Coach Sean Payton knows that. “Well hopefully he can take some of the ice bags off Alvin. Mark is a physical runner. It’s hard when you’re getting the bulk of any carries or any throws,” Payton said this week.
Ingram is more than ready to get back into the game. His hard-nosed north-south running is sorely missed. Moreover, the success was huge last year. The Saints ran for 160 yards on 23 carries with the combination of Kamara and Ingram. The average of seven yards a carry will be tough to top from last year. For this reason, the running game should be an emphasis early to see if the offensive line can break them free once again.
The Schedule Remains Tough Going Forward
After the Redskins game, the Saints travel to Baltimore and Minnesota. Ironically, the Saints are currently undefeated on the road at 2-0 to start. A split with Minnesota and Baltimore would be a great achievement. Sean Payton has never beaten the Ravens. And the Vikings are always tough on the road.
After those road games, the Saints play host to the Rams. Of course, the Rams are the favorites to win the NFC at the moment. Regardless, the Saints are going into the teeth of their schedule in 2018. Who Dat Nation just better be a little more patient before crowning the Saints a playoff contender just yet. Four games is a small sample anyway. To put it another way, nothing is won in October. Still, being 3-1 is better than 2-2 or 1-3.
This season is still in the early stages. The defense is still far from average. This second quarter of the season is going to be telling. A 2-2 record through the next four would be a success. Most fans probably wouldn’t be happy with that but just realize that this quarter stands out as being the biggest test.