NFC Playoff Contenders are Fortunate to Avoid the New Orleans Saints

NFC playoff Saints

The New Orleans Saints, somehow, finished the 2021 NFL Regular Season with a winning record. Even with so much turmoil, the Saints were able to finish the season with a winning record in the new 17-game format. The Saints began the year trying to replace a future Hall of Fame quarterback. A hurricane then caused issues at the beginning of the season. Injuries and virus issues limited the team several weeks through the year, but the Saints managed to have a winning season. This is in big part to the Saints stifling defense. There have been multiple occasions this season where a healthy Saints defense shut down opposing offenses. If the Saints had been able to sneak into the last playoff spot, the NFC would have been on notice from what might be the best defense in the NFL. 

NFC Playoff Teams Avoid New Orleans Saints Defense

The New Orleans Saints defense would have given any remaining NFC contender in a playoff matchup. Out of the remaining NFC teams, no defense is as complete as the Saints. Against the pass, the Saints defense was third-best at allowing touchdowns. They also allowed just a 62% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks, the sixth-best in the entire league. Against the rush, there was no remaining team better. The Saints finished the season allowing the fewest yards per carry in the entire NFL. The Saints allowed the third-fewest yards on the ground overall. This is in spite of having more rushes contended than any other team in the top five rushing defenses. No other team in the NFL, much less the NFC, has the defensive strength that the Saints would have brought to the playoffs. 

Saints Defense Dominated when Healthy

The Saints showed off several times during the regular season on defense. In just the last five games of the regular season, the Saints defense allowed around 10 points a game. This was accomplished in spite of the Saints playing multiple quarterbacks. The Saints Week 15 dominance of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the best example of what a healthy Saints defense can do. Tom Brady was held to just 214 passing yards in the game. Brady also turned over the ball twice, one by a fumble, and threw an interception. The Buccaneers were held scoreless for the first time under Brady as well. Even though the Saints offense only managed three field goals in the game, the defense played so well that they truly only needed one to win. 

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Before this game, the Saints had a few other games where the defense showed out. In the opening game of the season, the Saints defense completely shut down the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers and crew were held to just three points. The Saints were also able to stave off the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The Saints defense held these teams to 13 or fewer points. If the Saints were able to do this to playoff teams, then the other teams waiting in the first round were fortunate to avoid the Saints. 

Defense Wins Championships

If the adage of “defense wins championships” holds true, then the NFC playoff contenders are fortunate to avoid the Saints this year. Teams like the Buccaneers and Packers have already seen what a healthy Saints defense can accomplish. It is unlikely that any of the other teams would have had an offensive solution for the Dennis Allen defense. The Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams have sputtered on offense recently, while the Saints defense was just starting to peak. If the Saints had gotten into the playoffs, this defense would have caused issues for any of the remaining teams. The NFC is fortunate that the best defense in the NFL is sitting at home.

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