Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Are the Saints for real? The NFL Blog Network breaks down each of the seven teams that started the season 3-0.
What they’ve accomplished: The 3-0 start is probably better than any realistic expectation in the preseason. The Saints were supposed to be without starting defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant for the first four games, but the NFL decided on the eve of the season to at least postpone their suspensions. Although Smith and Grant have been painted as underachievers in the past, they’re playing well as part of a rebuilt New Orleans defense. That’s been a key in the fast start as the Saints have had road wins against Buffalo and Philadelphia. The defense has gotten better each game and the Buffalo win showed the Saints don’t always need to rely on their offense. There also has been a little luck involved with the Saints facing Matthew Stafford and Kevin Kolb in their first career starts. But this team is in line for a little luck after going through a bunch of injuries and a brutal schedule that featured an international game last year.
What’s ahead: Sunday’s game with the Jets suddenly has become a showdown of undefeated teams, and the Superdome should be rocking with enthusiasm. The remaining schedule does include teams like the Giants and Patriots, but it also includes two games with Tampa Bay and Carolina and single games with St. Louis and Washington. The Saints have a bye next week and that will help running backs Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas rest up and that’s a positive. It’s been nothing but positives for this team so far. At worst, the Saints will go through the first quarter of the schedule at 3-1.
Realistic outcome: The Saints already have created separation with the rest of the NFC South, and Atlanta remains the only realistic challenger. With Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey healthy, the New Orleans offense is even better than last year and Drew Brees is having a an MVP type of season. The defense already is solid under new coordinator Gregg Williams and it should only get better in time. The Saints finally have balance throughout the team and that should pay off with a playoff berth. This team might be able to go deep into the playoffs if it continues to click on both sides of the ball.