Neither the Saints nor the Bengals had recently felt the sting of a home defeat until last week. The Saints had their 11-game home winning streak stopped by the Niners. The Bengals had won 14 straight at Paul Brown Stadium before a humiliating loss to the Browns.
The Saints get the chance to stretch their home winning streak to one on Sunday against a Bengal team that begins a three-game road trip with five of their last seven on the road. They are two and five in their last seven journeys into enemy territory.
Of the Bengals' three losses this season, all have been by more than 20 points. They've lost those three by a total of 74 points. The Saints have lost four of their five losses by a total of nine points - two of those in overtime. A play here or a play there and the Saints could be 8 and 1. But because they couldn't make a play there, they lost three tight ones on the road. Because they couldn't make a play here, they lost their first tight one at home to San Francisco.
Now they venture into the AFC North, where no team is worse than two games over .500. They do so as the less-than-proud leaders of the NFC South, where no team is even as good as .500.
The Saints have already lost to the Browns and now face the other three members of the AFC North in three straight games - Cincinnati and Baltimore here, and then a road game at Pittsburgh.
It's imperative to the Saints' playoff chances that they do in the next three weeks, lest either the Falcons or Panthers behind them beat them to it.