I've been having this debate in a fantasy league with a myopic Seahawk fan friend of mine. Like, I would argue, most people in the media and in fandom, he thinks the Saints are pretenders -- a "good story" -- destined to wake up at some point in the season and realize that they're the New Orleans Saints.
I disagree. I think they're the second-best team in the NFC right now, behind only the Bears. Before you say I'm wrong, consider the following:
First off, the Saints are 5-1 with their only loss coming on the road to the Panthers by 3 points. The Seahawks are 4-1 against almost exactly the same strength of schedule, and their one loss was by 31 points in their only real test of the season. They needed a 54-yard field goal to beat an overrated Rams team (thanks, Bill Simmons) and beat the Lions by a field goal as well.
Personnel-wise, they're very similar teams. Brees and Hasselbeck are basically the same quarterback: two Pro Bowls apiece, they both throw nice short and mid-range balls with decent accuracy but lack real cannon arms. Neither is very mobile (snicker). McAllister has as many Pro Bowl trips as Alexander and, while not as good, is probably the best running back other than Alexander during the last five-year span. He also played on much worse teams with much worse offensive lines. They have similar styles of play, are almost the exact same size, and while Alexander's credentials read better, he's more one-dimensional -- McAllister's a better pass-catcher. Alexander's also two years older and showing signs of wear. Joe Horn is like an older, slightly slower Darrell Jackson with much better hands. And the Seahawks don't have Reggie Bush.
Other things worth noting:
Total defense (NFC):
New Orleans 5th
Total offense (NFC):
Too bad the Seahawks have a cupcake schedule, or I'd say the Saints were a lock for home-field. As it is, the Hawks can lose to every good team they play -- Chicago, San Diego and Denver -- and go 13-3.
But come playoff times things will be interesting. And right now, New Orleans is clearly the better team.