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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Power Rankings: Saints show it was matter of time

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Updated Dec. 14

When the New Orleans Saints struggled some on offense earlier this season, there was no way it would last.

Two reasons why: Drew Brees and Sean Payton.

Brees is one of the game's best passers and Payton is the NFL's best play-caller. There was no way the Saints would stay a sputtering offense, even with a key injury to Reggie Bush and a running game that seemed to be floundering.

In the past five games, the Saints have scored 34, 34, 30, 34 and 31. That's after the offense came alive in the second half against Pittsburgh, a victory that started their current six-game winning streak.

New Orleans beat St. Louis 31-13 Sunday with the help of a defensive touchdown, but Brees was sharp.

The Saints are now third in total offense and third in passing offense. Brees has thrown 12 touchdown passes in the past five games after throwing 16 in the first eight. He has cut down on his interceptions, and the passing game is clicking.

They have won six consecutive games to get to 9-3 but are still a game behind the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South. They play the Falcons in two weeks on Monday night, a game that should decide the division title.

Before then, the Saints have a big game at Baltimore on Sunday, which will provide us a real treat: the Saints offense against that Ravens defense.

The defending Super Bowl champs are riding high now, but a loss at Baltimore would be damning because the Falcons travel to Seattle next week and close with Carolina at home. Those appear to be winnable, so it could make the Saints-Falcons game meaningless if they were to win those and the Saints lose to the Ravens.

NFL -- Week 14
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The Saints, who have risen to fourth in our CBSSports.com Power Rankings, face a difficult final game at home against Tampa Bay, another team fighting for a playoff spot.

"We felt, coming in to this last quarter of the season, the uniqueness with these four opponents was that all four, many would argue, are going to play in the playoffs or at least are contending to play in the playoffs," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We felt that it was going to be a competitive stretch."

If the Saints win the NFC South, they will have earned it. But the way they're playing on offense, it's hard to count out this team -- even if they go the wild-card route.

Brees and Payton. You knew they'd find a way to fix it. That offense is just fine in New Orleans.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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