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A year after a trainwreck of a season that included the suspension of coach Sean Payton, the Saints have reverted to form, and loom now at 9-2 as Seattle’s biggest threat to gaining homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Quarterback Drew Brees is having one of his best seasons at age 34, ranked fourth in the NFL this week in passing efficiency and leading an offense that is third in the NFL at 415 yards per game. Six-foot-seven tight end Jimmy Graham (65 catches for 946 yards) is a matchup nightmare for anyone, and the Saints have one of the more diverse passing offenses in the league. New Orleans has been much-improved defensively — after allowing 28.4 points per game last season the Saints are giving up just 17.5 this year under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan likes to mix up his defenses and likes to bring lots of pressure — the Saints are tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 37.

Bob Condotta

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