On a shorter week the Saints face the Atlanta Falcons while the odds get longer to land a wild card playoff berth. In a 5 and 6 season the Saints have the distinction of handing the Falcons their only loss, yet hover on the brink of extinction because they have provided the Chiefs with their only win and the Panthers with one of their only two.
The Falcons lie in wait far healthier than the Saints and the Niners were Sunday, playing with their full complement of starters.
Staying healthy is a huge factor in fashioning a late season run to the playoffs. Sunday the Bears may have lost six starters in their victory over the Vikings. Peyton Manning had to be screened for a concussion in the Broncos' victory over those Chiefs. Saint wide receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore were as well.
I recently heard former Colts' general manager Bill Polian say weeks 9 through 14 produce the most injuries in an NFL season, placing a premium on a team's depth which few teams in the NFL have the luxury to stockpile.
Certainly the Saints are no different. On an already thin offensive line they had to resort to their fourth-string right tackle Sunday. At this stage of the season you can't find quality offensive linemen sitting on their couches, guarding their stash of Twinkies.
In years past Zach Strief was known by the announcement that "number 64 is eligible." It'll be far more important to the Saints' dwindling play-off chances that an announcement come sometime this week that "number 64 is available" to start against the Falcons.
Disappointed Saints' fans this Monday can look around the NFL and take a measure of comfort in seeing situations far more desperate than theirs. Coaches like Andy Reid, Romeo Crennel, Norv Turner, Ken Whisenhunt, Ron Rivera, and Chan Gailey twist slowly in the wind -- some coaching for their jobs, others already resigned to losing theirs.
In New York the embarrassing Jets have lost their biggest fan. "Fireman Ed" has resigned as their most vocal cheerleader. The cheers have turned to jeers and Ed Anzalone fears for his safety at the hands of his fellow fans over his insistence on wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey.
The J-e-t-s, Jets, Jets, Jets have become an m-e-s-s, mess, mess, mess.