Well, shit. So much for Sean Payton's Revenge Tour.

The Saints are off to a second consecutive 0-2 start and it sure doesn't look like these guys have it in 'em to climb out of the early hole they've dug for themselves. Just our luck, right? The defensive retooling has so far exceeded even our most wildly optimistic expectations, but right on cue, our formerly historically-great offense has suddenly turned to complete dogshit. Because, of course. Drew Brees and Sean Payton both have their heads up their asses. Mark Ingram is useless. The offensive line has clearly fallen completely apart after the losses of load-bearing beams Aaron Kromer and Jermon Bushrod. Hope you weren't really expecting any kind of "bounce back season" this year, because all indications are that instead, it's time to get to work on the offensive rebuilding project. Who ya got, Jake Matthews or Johnny Football?

Wait, what the fuck? The Saints are 2-0? All alone in first place in the division? With the third highest cumulative margin of victory in the NFC? Bullshit! How is that even possible?

Hell if I know, but I'll take it. So what if the Saints have won two games they had no business winning? It's a hell of a lot better than losing two games they had no business losing. Am I right, Schiano?

I suppose it all comes down to which way you choose to look at it. Call it playing with fire if you like. I call it playing with house money.

It's been fashionable this week to compare the first two games of this season to past seasons in an effort to draw incredibly premature parallels upon which to base incredibly premature conclusions about where this season might be headed.

Some of the more insufferably optimistic among us have concluded that "the Football Gods are on our side" this year, much like back in 2009 (it's always gonna be 2009, for the rest of our lives, isn't it?) and therefore these first two weeks clearly portend special things going forward this season. It's just a matter of time until Meacharound II happens, right?

Others, particularly the curmudgeonly old fart behind the bar, are already convinced that the 2013 Saints are a whole lot more like the 2010 version — a team that simply wasn't good enough — and prefer to dismiss out of hand any notion that the Saints might.. you know.. fix their current issues and actually get better over the course of this season.. as wishful thinking. Even "wait and see" is a foolish position to take, because the first two games (not to mention the historical precedent of past seasons) have already shown us precisely what the 2013 Saints are and will be. Because past performance is indicative of future results. And if the 2013 Saints had The Stuff of Champions, they'd have shown it already.. like they did in the first two games of 2009. Quod erat demonstrandum, baby. Or something.

Both positions are patently absurd at this point, of course. Eventually one faction or the other will inevitably claim to have been "proven right" once hindsight comes into play, but that doesn't make either conclusion any less premature or either argument any less specious after week 2 (for crying out loud.) It's a fun little game to play, for entertainment purposes only, but that's all it is. 2009 doesn't have anything to do with 2013. Whole different team, whole different league, whole different set of circumstances. And while you can certainly draw parallels between seasons if that kind of thing does it for ya, those parallels aren't any more predictive than those based on the whims of various sports-themed deities.

Meantime, for all the obvious issues this team is dealing with right now, the fact remains that they've won two games they usually lose (the first opponent being Atlanta notwithstanding.) The one where the defense has to keep the opponent from winning the game on the last drive is a "classic" Saints loss. And the one on the road in less-than-ideal conditions when the Saints can't run the ball and Drew drops a shitburger is another "classic" Saints loss. Seasons don't follow formulas, but individual games often do follow standard "scripts" (more or less) and the first two games have both followed scripts that usually result in Saints losses.

Ultimately they legitimately earned both wins by.. all together now.. "making the plays when [we] needed to" but they were also incredibly lucky in the process. Lucky that Steven Jackson dropped that ball at the goal line, and lucky that Greg Schiano called for a 47 yard field goal, which Rian Lindell missed, on the Bucs' last drive.

That they won both games doesn't mean they'll be able to continue to win games in the manner they have so far, that it won't eventually come back to bit them in the ass if they don't clean up their act on offense. And it damn sure doesn't guarantee that the good luck the Saints have enjoyed so far will continue because "The Football Gods are on our side" or any other such mystical nonsense. I'm not saying the wins are predictive of anything, just that they happened, and that they put the Saints in the position of playing with house money.

After all, how'd you like to be Atlanta right now? 1-1 with a head-to-head loss against your main (perhaps only) competition in the division. 13th in scoring offense, 26th in rushing offense, 27th in total defense and 29th in passing defense. But despite all that, they could easily be 2-0 right now. They're not. Instead, they're in the red and have to try to get back to break-even without Kroy Biermann, Sean Weatherspoon, Steven Jackson and with an injured Roddy White.

Or how about San Francisco? 1-1 with a head-to-head loss against their main competition in the division. 24th in scoring offense, 18th in total offense and passing offense, 17th in rushing offense, 27th in scoring defense and 24th in rushing defense. Oof. 

Or Green Bay and Detroit, both 1-1 with close road losses? Or the Giants at 0-2?

Not that any of that has anything to do with how the Saints are playing, but it does illustrate that the Saints aren't the only presumed NFC contender that isn't playing its best right about now. But they are the only one that's 2-0 anyway. House money.

Meantime, I think the severity of the Saints' current issues is being overblown across the board. I'm not saying they don't exist, because they obviously do. Most of them, anyway. But it's gonna take a hell of a lot more than two games (two wins, for crying out loud, ugly though they might have been) for me to conclude that these issues are chronic, let alone terminal.

There's nothing wrong with Drew. Nitpick a couple of underthrows in week one if you must, but deep balls are low-percentage throws by their very nature. It's perfectly reasonable to grade Drew on the Drew Brees Curve, as long as you acknowledge that that's what you're doing. But despite those couple of less-than-Drewesque passes, he still threw for 357 yards, 2 TDs and posted a passer rating of 113.6. He did have a really crappy game on the road on a wet field while being under duress all fuckin' game last weekend, with a couple of ugly interceptions, but that's nothing we haven't seen before. It happens a couple times a year, and it's always just a one-game thing. He always bounces back. Hell, he already bounced back on that last drive. Drew is fine.

Overall, the offensive line has been underperforming through two games, to say the least. No question about it. But I reject the notion that they've been consistently bad. Mileage varies, but to my eye it's been sporadic breakdowns. Egregious ones, to be sure. And it's resulted in six sacks over two games and quite a bit of other pressure on Drew. That's unacceptable, no argument there. But it's also been against a couple of pretty strong front 7s. With a new left tackle and an injured (to whatever extent) right guard. On a wet field in Tampa. And while they've taken some not-completely-undeserved heat for their run blocking, Mark Ingram is a hot mess right about now, and Pierre Thomas is running for 5.1 yards per. So I don't see any indication (so far) that any of their struggles aren't at least explainable to some extent, and perfectly fixable.

Run defense. This just in: Doug Martin is pretty fuckin' good. And they held Steven Jackson to 77 rushing yards, with 50 of those coming on a single run. Nothing to see here. They're fine. Not great obviously, at least not so far. They're gonna get gashed every now and then, and elite tailbacks like Martin are gonna get their yards. But that's perfectly manageable.

And then there's Mark Ingram. The good news? It's already effectively over. Long-term, anyway. There's just no way in hell he gets a second contract from the Saints after next season. That much has almost certainly already been decided. But I was all set to write that short-term, you might as well get used to it because Sean Payton is gonna keep running him. And that might not have been so bad, because I don't think he's so bad that he wouldn't have put up a handful of 50-75 yard games here and there, score a handful of touchdowns and basically be Just A Guy while he plays out the string. Nothing particularly good, but nothing disastrously bad either.

Now, I'm not so sure. Because if this toe injury is even a little bit more than a negligible minor annoyance, it's the perfect opportunity to sit him without "benching him" and allow everyone involved to save some modicum of face. And if that's the case, I think that's precisely what they're gonna do. And if that's the case, then it really is over. Soon. Maybe even right now. Because for all the hand-wringing over the run blocking, pardon me for repeating myself but Pierre Thomas is still running for 5.1 yards per. And that right there is one hell of a "backup plan."

Sure, it's only been 14 carries over the first two games, but while I concede that it's a small sample size so far this year, that extrapolates to 112 carries over the season and 571 rushing yards even if his carries aren't increased. Those are 2011 numbers, and not too far off from his career highs from… all together now… 2009. Which is to say, all indications so far are that he's the same guy now as he was then, and that's plenty good enough.

Which would make it all the more mystifying that they haven't leaned on him more than they have so far, if we weren't already well aware of the reason: they've been desperately trying to make Mark Ingram happen. And while that's been frustrating to watch, they had to do it, because what if it had happened?

But if this toe injury forces the issue, I've got a hunch that that's gonna be it. Maybe not officially, but for all practical purposes. Because Sean Payton isn't the kind of guy to argue with results. Not for long, anyway.

I know that an awful lot of this here post is gonna come off like I'm being an apologist here and desperately trying to explain away the Saints' current issues (or, worse yet, just sticking my head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge them.) And maybe there's some truth to that. Never claimed I wasn't a homer. But I really do believe that there's very little reason to be freaking out here, not yet anyway. Now might be a good time to remind ourselves that there's a reason "midseason form" is a thing. 

They're not there yet, but that's okay. The Saints are sitting as pretty as they possibly can be at this point in the season, despite everything. They're playing with house money while they're getting things worked out. And that's one hell of a good position to be in. 

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