"I don't think there's anything commanding at Week 5 of the regular season because you have 11 games left,’’ Payton said. “But I think we certainly try to place a value and understand the importance of games in the NFC and more importantly games in your own division. There's still no light at the end of the tunnel, there really can't be. I think that begins to take shape at the latter part of the season for the whole league."
Payton’s right. It’s a little premature to start talking like that. But not by much. The Saints are 4-1. The Buccaneers are 3-2, the Falcons are 2-3 and the Panthers are 1-4.
A win against Tampa Bay would give the Saints a two-game lead in the division. If that happens, I’m thinking the chances of New Orleans running away with the division are pretty good.
I’m looking at the Saints’ schedule and they’ve already played the hardest portion of it. If Tampa Bay and Atlanta continue playing like they have recently, the Saints should be able to beat them both twice.
Other than that, the only game on the schedule that looks really tough is a Dec. 4 contest with Detroit. But that is in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which could make things a little easier for the Saints.
There was a time when I thought the NFC South title would come down to the Dec. 26 game between the Falcons and Saints. That still could happen, but it would require the Saints stumbling a bit and the Falcons suddenly finding themselves and go on a roll.
If things continue going the way they are, the Saints will win the NFC South with ease.