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DATELINE: Santa Clara, CA (Deja Vu Dat all over again...?)

If you've seen this movie before, you're hoping the Saints' sequel has a happier ending.

Recent history would tell you, the odds aren't with the Who Dat Nation.

You see under Sean Payton it's been either feast or famine in his now 10th year on the Saints sideline. Either his team has made great and sometimes Championship playoff runs or they tease you by climbing back to the .500 mark only to falter down the stretch.

In 2007, Payton's Saints started 0-4 then won four straight to get back to .500 .....only to finish 7-9.

In 2008, his team started 1-3, then evened its record to 4-4.... only to finish 8-8.

Then you have the past two seasons where in 2014, Payton's bunch were at 4-4 and finished 7-9. Last season--same deal--fought back to 4-4 and finished 7-9.

So here we are again and remarkably it's the same deal as a year ago--the Saints stumble out of the gate losing its first three games then win four of their next five to even its record at 4-4.

Do we fall for this again?

It's hard to when the schedule is at its toughest juncture with the defending Super Bowl Champs coming into the Superdome on Sunday. Yeah the same angry Broncos who are smarting over a tough loss against Oakland ---then the Saints have to turn around and play a game four days later against a Carolina team which is seeking revenge and won't be happy either.

If they could sweep that stretch or even win one out of two---the rest of the way "appears" to set up nicely for New Orleans.

After that---the Saints six remaining games only include two teams with a winning record and two will be against a Bucs team in the span of two weeks. A Bucs team who has seen its defense fall apart this season.

More good news for the Saints is as they sit at .500 the four teams they have lost to have a combined 24-10 record this season. The Falcons and Raiders lead their divisions while the Chiefs and Giants are poised for wildcard berths.

I predicted before the season, these Saints would finish 7-9 and recent history likes my chances but I think "if" this team stays healthy they have a great chance to be different.

I think they could even lose the next two games and finish above .500 but at the end of the day I really think this is a .500 football team.

Count me in for 8-8. I think they lose the next two games, slip up at Arizona who remains a dangerous team especially on the road and ultimately fall in Atlanta in the season finale (unless by then, the Falcons are resting their starters).

Forget Groundhog Day, whenever this team starts slow only to even it's record, a Payton pattern seems to form---I think this team will end up much like the others.

History agrees with me.


OK, halfway home time to dish out these grades for the black and gold:

MVP: Is there any question? Drew Brees may be 37 but still won't act his age putting up crazy numbers once again. Only Matty Ice in Atlanta has more passing yards and touchdowns than number 9 who has 2,689 passing yards, 21 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. Maybe a long term deal isn't such a bad idea?

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Is there any question? Second round pick Michael Thomas came out of camp poised to have a big year and he's more than delivered. The rook has caught everything in sight and is getting better each week leading the team with 47 catches and tied with Brandin Cooks for the team lead in touchdown catches with five.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Remember back in the preseason when everyone wondered how Brees and the offense would survive with such a struggling offensive line? Wonder no more, this unit has been great and even more impressive they've done their damage without a healthy Terron Armstead and an often questionable Andrus Peat who has been banged up too--no one saw this coming.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: How bout the Saints linebacking corp where thank goodness the team hit on veterans Craig Robertson and Nate Stupar or can you imagine where this unit would be. Offseason pickup James Laurinaitis never was a factor and is now out for the season while last year's once promising first round pick Stephone Anthony has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.

BEST STORY: You have to appreciate the plight of Saints running back Tim Hightower who has been a major factor in the team getting back to the .500 mark. Sitting out of football for four seasons and then buying his time the last two in New Orleans, Hightower runs hard and is dependable while pushing Mark Ingram to get better has been a plus too.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT... I have covered a game in every NFL city (except Los Angeles) and will have to put the Niners new Levi's Stadium as one of the best in the league where little things matter. It's a huge upgrade from the ole Candlestick digs but unlike many of the other newbie stadiums--the access in and out is great, the people are friendly and selfishly the press box food may be the best in the league. Tip of the hat to Levi's---look forward to a return trip.

Mike Nabors

Mike Nabors's photo

By: Mike Nabors

An Emmy award winning sports reporter who covers a wide variety of events for CST. Primarily, Mike serves as the network's reporter for Saints coverage.


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