Sep 1, 2013 09:17 Smiley: Saintly season Smiley: Saintly season smiley anders Sept. 01, 2013 Comments I don’t know what it is with me and the New Orleans Saints. My Fearless Football Forecast for LSU is sometimes fairly accurate, but I seldom even come close to figuring out the Saints. I’ve even gone to New Orleans before the Saints’ season and consulted a Genuine Jackson Square Psychic, to no avail. (The guy was from Wyoming, not exactly an NFL hotbed.) Last year I figured the Saints would make the playoffs, despite Bountygate. I figured wrong. This year I figure the return of Sean Payton from exile should be good for at least three more wins than last year. Grand opening The lads in black and gold start off the 2013 season with a victory in the Dome over their archrivals, the Atlanta Falcons. It’s something of an upset, and has the estatic home crowd crowing “Overrated!,” shouting “Super Bowl!” and generally behaving in a raucous manner. Road warriors The Saints’ first road game ends in victory, as a revamped defense holds the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense in check most of the game. Bashing the birds A decisive win at home over the Arizona Cardinals has NFL insiders buzzing about the undefeated Saints and their new look under Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Fried fish The excitement peaks during a Monday night game in the Dome against the Miami Dolphins, as Drew Brees puts on a show for ESPN viewers and the Saints surge to 4-0. Down to earth The peak soon becomes a valley, as a visit to the Chicago Bears turns ugly and the boys from New Orleans limp home with their first loss. Not hospitable The New England Patriots prove to be rude hosts to the visiting Saints, as Tom Brady wins his duel with Drew and the Saints get their second loss in a row. But Saints faithful are happy that they’re 4-2 at the bye. Home sweet home Back in the friendly confines of the Superdome, the home team gets another win in a hard-fought contest with the rebuilding Buffalo Bills. Road to victory This time a road trip, to the New York Jets, ends in a win, as the Jets continue to fall apart before our very eyes. Sorry, Boys Back on national TV, in a Sunday night game with the Dallas Cowboys in the Dome, the Saints pick off Tony Romo twice and leave the Boys wondering what happened. Rob Ryan especially enjoys the win over his old team, and is seen beaming from the sidelines as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones yells at Coach Jason Garrett after the game. Help, we’ve fallen The next home game, against the high-flying San Francisco 49ers, does not have such a happy ending. For Saints fans, it’s a downright miserable ending, as the visitors roll over the home team. Falcons get even A dreaded Thursday night game in Atlanta on the NFL Network has Saints fans scrambling to remember what channel the game is on. But after they get it, they realize they’d be better off without the game, which turns out to be a disaster for the visitors and gives the Falcons a boost up in their quest for the NFC South crown. Blue Monday The Saints’ second Monday night game, in Seattle versus the Seahawks, has a deja vu quality, as the Hawks replay their playoff victory over the Saints and notch another win. Winning ways Home in the Dome, the Saints celebrate with a win over the Carolina Panthers that breaks a three-game losing streak. Rams sheared In one of their toughest tests of the season, the black and gold gang goes to St. Louis to eke out a win over the improved Rams. Panthers’ turn The Saints split their series with the Carolina Panthers, as Cam Newton leads the home team to a victory. Final shot The Saints continue their mastery over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning their final home game and ending the season with a fine 10-6 record. Playoff bound But, alas, the Falcons still win the NFC South, and the New Orleans gang has to settle for a wild-card berth. The big chill Alas again, the dome team from down south has to travel to the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. (Yeah, I know, “frozen tundra” sounds redundant, but that’s the cliché and I’m sticking with it.) The game, played in near-blizzard conditions, is low-scoring and error-filled and downright hideous to watch. And when it’s over, the Saints’ season is over too. But a winning record and a playoff berth leaves fans optimistic about the future of their beloved boys in black and gold. Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.