The New Orleans Saints are looking to do some damage next season. Will they overtake the Buccaneers for top dog in the NFC South? Probably not. Will they compete? Probably. They will be a competent team with the talent to win several games, and with the NFL schedule officially unveiled, some people have realized that the Saints have an opportunity to do something no team has ever done before in the history of the NFL… beat all five bird teams in a single season.
The Saints will play the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 and Week 15. They will play the Seattle Seahawks at home in Week 5. They face the Arizona Cardinals two weeks later for Thursday Night Football. They get the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, and they get the Philadelphia Eagles on New Year’s Day Week 17. That’s every bird team in the NFL and surprisingly enough, no team has ever beaten all five in the same season.
There are some caveats that prevent certain teams from running this gauntlet. For example, since four of these bird teams are in the NFC, the team looking to make history has to be in the NFC as well. All of the bird teams themselves are disqualified obviously, and each team still in the running can only attempt this feat once every four years since that’s how often they get to face the AFC North. I still haven’t gotten into the fact that although a team may get lucky enough to face the NFC West that same year, they’d also have to luck out and finish in the same position as either the Eagles or Falcons that previous season. It’s a cluster of scheduling miracles falling perfectly into place one after the other in order for any team to have this opportunity, but behold, here it stands before the Saints and first-year head coach Dennis Allen.
As rare as this occurrence is, it happened as recently as 2020. The Dallas Cowboys faced each of these teams in Weeks 2, 3, 6, 8, 13, and 16. Obviously, the Eagles are in their division, so they had the privilege of playing them twice (Weeks 8 and 16), just as the Saints have the privilege of playing the Falcons twice this year (Weeks 1 and 15). Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their quest to go where no team had ever gone before stopped when they fell to the Seahawks 38-31 in Week 3. They couldn’t even make it through the second bird. Pitiful. Hopefully, the Saints can solve this aviary conundrum that has haunted the NFL since its inception.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What about the cat gauntlet?” The cat gauntlet of Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Carolina, and Detroit does exist, but running that gauntlet is practically impossible. Since there are two such teams in each conference, the team attempting to run the gauntlet would have to face the final cat team in the Super Bowl if they wanted to pull it off. The Rams did beat the Lions and Jaguars in the regular season last year, and even scored a victory over the Bengals in the Super Bowl, but they never had the opportunity to beat the lowly Carolina Panthers. And before you ask, no they did not face the Panthers in the preseason, so you can rule that out as well.
The 2015 Denver Broncos beat the Lions, Panthers, and Bengals, but never faced the Jaguars. The 2003 Patriots didn’t face the Bengals or Lions, and that’s every instance of a cat team reaching the Super Bowl since the inception of the Carolina Panthers in 1993, so that’s never been done either, but it’s practically impossible.
The bird gauntlet will be tough, given that two of those teams — the Eagles and Cardinals — both made the playoffs in 2021. The Ravens are a great team as well. It shouldn’t be too difficult for the Saints to secure victories against the Seahawks and Falcons, but that’s less than half the gauntlet. It will be grueling. It will be tough, but it will be history, and I’m always down to witness that.