Sorry, but I can’t stay away from sports. Knowing I’ll regret this — indeed, in a site for writing, this isn’t even writing; it’s just kibitzing — let me make a foolhardy prediction, born not of mere wishes, but from analysis married to intuition.

The New Orleans Saints, having lost back-to-back games to two of the worst teams in the league, stand at a win-loss mark right now of 4 and 6. But I’m here to tell you that they will enter the final week of the season with nine wins against six losses, facing a January 3 game at Atlanta which, if they win and the right other teams lose that week, would qualify them for the playoffs.

What will happen in that game against the Falcons, I cannot say.

But coming off a “bye” week, which Sean Payton’s teams almost always use to good effect, the Saints will, I foresee, A) benefit from the change in defensive coordinators from Rob Ryan to Dennis Allen, with Allen disguising defenses better, blitzing slightly more often, and finding the elusive motivational voodoo that will make his players move half-a-step faster on every play; B) benefit by returns to action of linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Hau’oli Kikaha; C) find that with the defense performing better, Drew Brees will feel less obliged to try to “force” good things to happen, and thus make fewer mistakes and perform even more brilliantly.

Oh — and, if you look at the schedule, you’ll see that among an otherwise fairly weak group of opponents in the next five weeks is one super-toughie: the currently undefeated Carolina Panthers. The Saints will not lose to Carolina twice in one year. Remember where you heard this: Carolina blue will refer not to a shade but a feeling (depression), because after the Saints get through with them, not even Peter Sellers could keep these Panthers “in the pink.”


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