Cha-ching! Who wants some?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Best meaningless week 17 game ever! Seriously, holy shit. That might very well have been the single most entertaining game of the Saints' 2011 regular season. Which is high praise indeed, as this team never fails to entertain. But this was more than that. It was something I'm not sure we Saints fans have ever experienced before, not even in 2009. It was a total swagfest. Just because. There was really nothing significant to lose, and realistically we all knew there probably wasn't anything significant to gain. But they went ahead and wiggled their dicks at 'em anyway. Why? Because they can. And it was glorious.

That's how you do week 17 in style. PAD THOSE STATS! PAD THOSE STATS! PAD THOSE STATS! Stay classy, New Orleans. Or something. I'm sure there will be no shortage of people who will come up with some reason why the whole exercise was stupid and pointless and counterproductive, and will surely spawn unintended consequences somehow. The good news is that those people are idiots.

Surely it's obvious that there was a purpose here. Several purposes, in fact.

The most obvious goal, of course, is the stated one. Maintaining momentum. Staying on a roll. Check.

But I think it was also about Smelling Greatness. For them, for us, and for the rest of the league.

Remember when Sean Payton told Garrett Hartley "Just hit your kick, son. Here's why, because you deserve to be here." It's about that. It's about the fact that they deserved all the records they set Sunday, and their head coach appreciates that. They earned it, and their head coach wants them to reap what they've sown. To get what they've earned, as a team and individually. That's why they run through walls for him. Because he's got their back.

He understands that while individual accomplishments and team-based records aren't as important and wins and losses, they're not insignificant either. It's all a part of Greatness. And being The Best in all those ancillary ways leads to overall Greatness in the primary, most important way.

It's also about not being scared of it. Of being Great. It's about "Sky's the limit." It's about rejecting the notion that something bad is bound to happen if you shoot for the moon. It's about not having to choose between setting a league record and winning a championship. You can have both. Hell, you can have it all.

Lots of coaches make these kinds of decisions based on fear. "What if my quarterback takes a shot to the knee while trying to set some 'unimportant' record, and then I've gotta answer for our season going up in smoke because my priorities were out of whack?" And hey, that risk is real, and it's omnipresent. If it weren't real, there wouldn't be any value in being fearless about it. It's an attitude, it's about choosing not to duck any challenge, of any kind, for any reason. It's about not waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's about seizing the day and declining no opportunity.

It's also about intimidation. It's about establishing themselves as the alpha dogs heading into the playoffs. It's about sending a message to the rest of the league: "You don't want none of this." Because they've never seen anything like it. Hell, the league has never seen anything like it. It's about embracing the role of King Shit & the Golden Boys. It's about being the team everybody's praying they'll be able to duck.

And perhaps most importantly of all, it's about staying loose. It's about #wegotthis. Is there any doubt that the Saints are the loosest team in the league heading into the playoffs? They're just having so much damn fun out there right now.

I mean, Jed Collins is attempting to go all Lance Moore with it in the end zone, for crying out loud! And I'll be damned if he didn't kinda-sorta succeed! At least if we're grading on the 250-lb white guy curve. Do you really think anybody was all that upset about Pierre's harmless little hijinks with the bow on the ball against Atlanta? Oh I'm sure Sean Payton was a little annoyed for a few minutes about the 15 yards, but I doubt it was any more than that, if even that much. The mood is just so light right now, it's smiles and high-fives and congratulations and #wegotthis all around.

I mean, sure, it's easy to be loose and have fun and be supremely confident when you're 13-3 and riding an 8-game win streak. Not so much when you're wandering aimlessly through a glorified week 17 forfeit — at home, no less — with everybody in the stadium bored out of their minds and wondering why anybody even bothered to show up. While the team goes through the motions and politely declines about 15 opportunities to make history that were easily within reach, opting instead to treat the whole thing like the fourth preseason game. That's no fun.

I think that looseness, the swag, is something that was missing last season. And I think its presence this season stands to be a huge advantage for the Saints heading into the playoffs.

If you've been paying attention to the other playoff teams, even Green Bay and New England, you don't get the same vibe. And you damn sure don't get it from Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta and the Giants. There's a certain uneasiness below the surface. They're uncomfortable with it all. Detroit and San Francisco are first-timers. Atlanta has a bona fide monkey on their back. The Giants have been there and have won a Super Bowl, but this year it seems like they're constantly having to justify that they even belong. Even Green Bay seems a little tight. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and all.

So I would assert that the Saints gained a hell of a lot from an ostensibly "meaningless" week 17 game that "didn't really change anything." Things that should serve them well going forward.

We've come a hell of a long way from our head coach deciding that it'd be a good idea to literally bury any and all evidence of the 2006 team's Greatness, no?

These days, they seem so at ease with it all. There's a palpable sense that they really have got it pretty much figured out at this point. It's not arrogance, just supreme confidence. They know exactly what they have to do, and there's not even a hint of a doubt that they have the ability to do it. And why shouldn't they? All recent indications are that they're right.

They have the perfect balance of experience and hunger. Whatever pressure might actually exist doesn't seem to faze the guys who were here in 2009, and the guys who weren't here in 2009 seem to be enjoying the opportunity to reach new heights, rather than being intimidated by it. Hell, even Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin have decided to go ahead and get motivated here lately.

They're as healthy as could reasonably be expected.

Offensively, they're quite simply the best the league has ever seen, and it's not even arguable. Don't believe me, just consult the record book. They have what our friend Shawn refers to as "critical mass" the likes of which no offense has ever had before. It's as unstoppable as any NFL offense has ever been. EVER.

For crying out loud, they're even kicking ass at the things they supposedly don't ordinarily do all that well. They've rushed for 150+ in each of their last 3 games. 100+ in 6 straight games. 200+ three times this season. They're 6th in the league in rushing yards and 4th in the league in yards per carry at 4.9 yards per. (!!!)

The Saints are the only offense in the league that's in the top 6 in both rushing and passing. Or in other words, no other offense is as complete, no other offense is as good at everything as the Saints offense is. Not by a long shot.

They've scored 40+ in 3 straight games, and 4 of their last 6. They haven't been held below 20 all season.

Nobody has an answer for this offense. Nobody. At this point it's gone well beyond "pick your poison." See, other offenses can claim to have a better set of wideouts, or a(n arguably) better tight end, or a(n arguably, as bullshit an argument as it might be) "better" quarterback, or a better left tackle, or a better set of tailbacks. But if you take out whatever one player or unit they claim is better, you can beat them. You can take a significant amount of juice out of their attack.

You can't do that to the Saints offense. Not as long as Drew's on the field, anyway. Take away whatever you can. There's plenty more where that came from.

Meantime, that's precisely the formula the Saints defense seems to have hit on lately. Nobody's gonna mistake this defense for anything resembling dominant. But what they can manage to do, pretty damn consistently here lately, is take away whatever an opposing offense's strongest weapon might be on a given gameday. They did it to Calvin Johnson, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, #RodneyWhite and Julio Jones (to a lesser extent, but good enough) and, most recently, Cam Newton. And that's been more than good enough, every week, for quite a long time now.

Don't look now, but the Saints defense has held its last 5 opponents to 20 points or fewer, and 6 of 8 since their last loss. They've held all 8 opponents since then to 24 or fewer. This just in: That's pretty fuckin' strong. It might not look like it sometimes, but it is. They've held opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing in 5 of the last 8. And I'll be damned if the No-catching Motherfuckers haven't produced at least one takeaway in 6 of their last 7.

Seriously, "Any given Sunday" notwithstanding, what chance does an opponent have at this point? Any opponent?

That display Sunday went a long way towards planting that seed in their minds, in our minds, and in opponents' minds. By golly, it was downright Sun Tzu.

And holy hell was it fun. 8-0 at home for the first time ever, bitches. Bless You, Boys.

Others can talk about how ultimately it won't mean shit if the Saints come up short in the playoffs. And on some hypothetical level, they're probably right.

But to hell with hypotheticals. Here in the real world, you take whatever glory you can get your hands on. Right then and right there. Anything less is a waste.

I do believe Apollo Creed said it best: Eye of the Tiger, baby. Eye of the Tiger.

#wegotthis

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