The unbeaten Patriots and 49ers are getting lots of attention and rightfully so. But are the New Orleans Saints the league’s most complete club?
There are a pair of undefeated teams in the NFL after eight weeks of play. The reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots boast an 8-0 record, an opportunistic defense and one of the great head coach/quarterback combinations in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
The other is the 7-0 San Francisco 49ers who, with a win on Thursday night at Arizona, will have doubled their 2018 victory total. The franchise is off to its best start since 1990 and, like the Patriots, features an impressive defensive unit led by a talent-laden front loaded with former first-round draft choices.
But both the Pats and Niners, despite their unblemished records, have had their issues on the offensive side of the ball for different reasons. New England has dealt with its share of injuries and a lack of offensive weapons for any number of reasons. San Francisco boasts a powerful running game but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been a bit spotty to date.
More from NFL Spin Zone
- Super Bowl 54 will answer the ultimate football question
- Eli Manning retires a Giants legend with complex NFL legacy
- Chicago Bears: 5 Offensive linemen to watch for in Senior Bowl
- What’s next for the Tennessee Titans after losing AFC Championship Game?
- Green Bay Packers: 3 Defensive coordinator candidates to replace Mike Pettine
Meanwhile, there’s a team in the Big Easy that has only one loss on its resume. But the New Orleans Saints have won six games in a row, have done it in various fashions and with their share of missing pieces.
Quarterback Drew Brees returned on Sunday after Teddy Bridgewater was at the helm for the previous five games. The results were a 31-9 victory over the visiting Cardinals. In the Week 7 win over the Bears and the club’s triumph vs. Arizona one Sunday later, a well-schooled offensive line paved the way for big outings from Latavius Murray as versatile Alvin Kamara missed both contests.
Only five teams in the NFL are allowing fewer total yards per game than Sean Payton’s club. The Saints are second vs. the run and ranked 12th in the league vs. the pass, the latter a massive improvement from a year ago. After surrendering seven offensive touchdowns in their first two games, Dennis Allen’s unit has given up just 10 such scores during the team’s six-game winning streak.
But perhaps what stands out the most about these Saints is that they have found various ways to win games. After holding off the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 3 (33-27), they didn’t score a touchdown and managed to cool off the previously-unbeaten Cowboys, 12-10, one week later. From a 31-24 victory over the Buccaneers to a 13-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
You get the point. It’s a team that hasn’t had to depend on its quarterback to put up astronomical numbers in order to compete. The transition began in 2017 and continues to this day. After three straight seasons of 7-9, the New Orleans Saints are a combined 31-9 in their last 40 regular-season outings and are seeking their third straight NFC title. All the pieces appear to be in place, with all the keyword.