The New Orleans Saints are the final stop in today's series of team-by-team mailbags.
Eric in New Orleans writes: Why are the Saints still getting very little respect as an NFC top-tier team? No one team around the league looks as if it is going to run roughshod over anyone in the playoffs. Let's be honest. The Saints' ceiling is probably still the highest in the NFL (talent-wise).
Pat Yasinskas: No argument here on the Saints’ ceiling. Besides a talented roster, they also have a relatively easy remaining schedule. I’ll have a column on the Saints on Friday that will focus on where they are coming out of their bye and what the rest of the season looks like for them. As far as the “respect’’ thing, I think that’s a matter of perception. I’m guessing the Saints might be getting overlooked a little on the national level because they were such a big story last year and they haven’t quite been dominant this season. But I like where the Saints are. They’ve weathered some injuries and some rough patches, but they’re poised for a strong finish and that would mean a very real shot to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Rick in Houston writes: The Falcons are #1 in the power rankings at 7-2. The Saints are #9 at 6-3. Yet, but for a missed chip shot field goal, their records would be reversed. Is the difference among the top nine teams really that thin this year?
Pat Yasinskas: The league always likes to talk about parity and I never quite understood what that meant -- until this season. Is there much difference between the Falcons and the Saints? No, a play or two is all that separates them. Take it a step further. Are the Buccaneers all that far off from the Saints and Falcons? They’re not far off. That’s really making the NFC South fun to cover this year. By this time last year, the Saints were pretty much running away with it. But now every game is a big game for the Saints, Falcons and Bucs.
Donald in New Orleans writes: Looking at the current standings and remaining schedule, it looks to me like it's possible for three NFC South teams to go to the playoffs. What do you think?
Pat Yasinskas: Entirely possible. Of course, there are variables with what happens with the teams in the NFC North and NFC East. But I think you can look at the schedules for the Saints, Bucs and Falcons and see a very real possibility of each of them ending up with double-digit wins. If you can get to 10 wins, you generally have a very good shot at being in the playoffs.