Who's No. 3? The amazing (doomed?) Saints

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 01, 2012

Congratulations to the 2011 New Orleans Saints, owners of several key NFL records, 13 hard-fought victories … and one of the toughest postseason roads any great regular-season team in history.

Yes, the Saints are the best No. 3 seed in NFL history heading to the postseason. Yet, if they want to win the Super Bowl this year, they’ll need to beat the explosive Detroit Lions at home, win at San Francisco, probably win at Green Bay, then win the big game against a tough AFC opponent.

No. 3 seeds haven’t fared too well over the years – by our figuring, only the 1988 49ers, and 2006 Colts have won it all as the No. 3 seed in either conference.

While there have been some extremely good teams that finished No. 3 in their conference – including the Super Bowl winners – only New Orleans can boast a 13-win season.

The top No. 3 seeds (post-merger)
  • 2011 Saints 13-3 +208 point differential
  • 2004 Colts 12-4 +171
  • 2003 Colts 12-4 +111
  • 2006 Colts 12-4 +67 (won Super Bowl)
  • 1972 Raiders 10-3-1 +117
  • 1974 Steelers 10-3-1 +116
  • 1976 Steelers 10-4 +204
  • 1973 Cowboys 10-4 +179
  • 1976 Rams 10-4 +161
  • 1975 Colts 10-4 +126
  • 1974 Redskins 10-4  +124
  • 1991 Oilers 11-5 +135
  • 1991 Saints 11-5 +130
  • 1992 Vikings 11-5 +125
Not only do the Saints top the list record-wise, they also have the second-best point differential (+13.0 PPG, behind only 1976 Steelers at +14.6).
They set the NFL records for most yards (7,474), passing yards (5,347) and first downs (416). Drew Brees set records for completions (468) and percentage (71.6). Darren Sproles set the all-purpose yards record with 2,696.

It’s also hard to imagine heading to the postseason hotter than New Orleans. They’ve got eight straight wins, including three in a row by 22, 29 and 28 points. They have averaged – AVERAGED! – 517.5 yards a game over the last six weeks.

Amazing. Incredible. Spectacular.

But then, the caveat – road trip! The Saints have played four road playoff games in franchise history, and lost all four, and all three of their losses this year came on the road.

Do the Saints have what it takes to overcome history, trends and some extremely good competition in the postseason?

We’ll see. But it’s sure been fun to watch them get here.

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