RICK CLEVELAND: Saints have tough road ahead in return to playoffs

RICK CLEVELAND

RICK CLEVELAND

JACKSON

So, the New Orleans Saints have to win four straight games away from home to win the Super Bowl.

It is possible.

It is not likely.

The first step is definitely do-able, that is, beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly on Saturday night. It will be cold, yes, but the forecast doesn’t call for high winds, rain or snow. What’s more, the Eagles been a mediocre home team this season, winning just four of eight games.

And then there’s the quarterback matchup: You’ve got Drew Brees vs. Nick Foles. Both are from Austin, Texas, Foles is tall and Brees is short. And that’s where the comparisons end. Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards or more in four different seasons. Foles hasn’t thrown for 5,000 yards in his career.

The second step? Well that’s where things get worse than dicey. Beat Philly, and the Saints then would have to win at Seattle where they were mauled 34-7 earlier this month. Remember? The Seahawks came at Brees from all angles and limited the Saints to 184 yards of total offense. It a 34-7 loss can be more one-sided than it sounds, that one was.

The Seahawks enjoy the same kind of homefield advantage at CenturyLink Field the Saints do at the Superdome. At both places, the visiting quarterback can’t hear his own snap count. That’s a huge problem for New Orleans, because the Saints’ offensive line – the left tackle in particular – has trouble protecting Brees when the snap count is loud and clear.

(We interrupt this column now to present you with these startling statistics. At home in the dome this season the Saints were 8-0 and outscored opponents a whopping 272-125. On the road, the Saints were 3-5, scored just 142 points and gave up 179.)

Sleepless in Seattle

The Saints could win at Seattle. Stranger things have happened. The Mississippi River flowed backward. Twice. All it took was an earthquake and a hurricane. You can look it up.

In the unlikely event of a Saints victory at Seattle, they would then play, well, who knows. The other side of the NFC bracket consists of Carolina, Green Bay and San Francisco. We do know this: The Saints would be underdogs on the road to any of the three.

So then, what if the Saints were to shock everyone and win three straight for the right to play in the Super Bowl?

That would put the ultimate indoor team in the ultimate outdoor game. Don’t know about you, but I still can’t believe the NFL decided to play the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The average low for that day in East Rutherford is 22 degrees. But should a dreaded Nor’easter blow in, it could be considerably colder and icier. Indeed, the venerable Farmer’s Almanac predicts a blizzard for this Feb. 2. Question: What if they held a Super Bowl and there was no power?

We are getting far, far ahead of ourselves here. Given the opportunity, the Saints would gladly take their chances in a New York/New Jersey blizzard. But the black and gold has much work to do before even thinking about an icy Super Bowl. It starts Saturday night in the city of Brotherly Love and spiteful fans. If you are a Saints fan, just hope those Philly fanatics don’t have any snowballs to throw.

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.