0: The number of home losses for the Saints this year. New Orleans never has completed a season undefeated at home but can do it for the first time by beating Carolina in the Superdome next Sunday. The outcome likely will hinge on how the San Francisco-St. Louis game plays out at the same time. If the 49ers take a decisive lead – locking New Orleans into the third seed – look for Saints coach Sean Payton to rest some starters.
1 in a million: The odds Drew Brees has of winning NFL MVP honors despite breaking Dan Marino’s passing record set all the way back in 1984. It’s no fault of Brees, who has been brilliant again for the Saints, but Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. Rodgers averages a yard more per attempt, has thrown more touchdown passes, fewer interceptions, beat Brees head-to-head and plays for the team with the better record despite statistically having a weaker run offense and weaker defense. Rodgers will be a near- unanimous winner, but Brees still has the chance for the last laugh if the two teams play in the NFC championship game.
3: The number of defensive touchdowns for the Saints this year. Safety Malcolm Jenkins clinched this game with a 30-yard return of a Julius Jones fumble that linebacker Scott Shanle forced early in the fourth quarter. Jenkins joined Jonathan Vilma, who recovered a fumble for a score, and Leigh Torrence, who returned an interception for a touchdown.
7: The number of consecutive Monday night football games the Saints have won, dating back to 2008. The two this year have been blowouts – a 49-24 win against the New York Giants on Nov. 28 and this 45-16 romp over the Falcons. The last time the Saints lost on Monday night was 30-27 to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 6 of 2008.
13: The number of times out of 20 opportunities a team that swept a division rival during the regular season has beaten that team again in the playoffs since the NFL-AFL merger. Don’t listen to all the nonsense about how the Saints need to avoid the Falcons in the first round of the playoffs because it is hard to beat a team three times in one year. The numbers prove otherwise. If the Falcons lose to Tampa Bay at home next week (they won’t) or Detroit wins at Green Bay (depends on the Packers’ interest), the Saints will welcome the Falcons to the Dome again in two weeks. Two years ago, Dallas waxed Philadelphia in a similar situation.
190: The number of yards advantage Brees has over New England’s Tom Brady heading into the final week of the season. Brady, who had 4,897 passing yards, could pass Brees for the NFL record if the Saints rest him for part of the Carolina game. New England has to beat Buffalo to clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, so look for Brady to post some huge numbers and Brees to throw on almost every down of the first half against Carolina. Keeping this record matters to him, Payton and everyone in the Saints’ organization.