By now, you've probably heard plenty about the Saints' ridiculous dominance at the Superdome in recent years -- take away coach Sean Payton's suspension during the 2012 season and they haven't lost at home since the Bucs got them in the 2010 season finale.
Even with the Payton-less season, the Saints are 21-4 at home since the start of 2011 -- only the Patriots, at 22-3, can beat that home record -- and what stands out about New Orleans' home prowess is how much it contrasts to their performance away from home. The Saints have dropped six straight road games and eight of their last nine, including an 0-3 mark this season.
If you look at point differential, the Saints were 22.7 points per game better at home than they were on the road last year -- the average home score was 34-15 in their favor, the average road score 23-18 against them. The next-closest home/away disparity in the NFL was nearly a touchdown less dramatic -- Cincinnati was 15.8 points per game better at home in net scoring. The Bucs, by comparison, were only 8.6 points better at home than on the road.
A big part of that, of course, is Drew Brees running a prolific offense with precision, his speedy targets enjoying the turf indoors -- Brees has 39 percent more passing touchdowns in home games than on the road, with 12 percent fewer interceptions. Those splits aren't always the case -- the Patriots' Tom Brady, another dominant passer at home, actually has 19 fewer passing touchdowns in his career in home games, but he makes up for that by limiting his mistakes remarkably well at home -- he's 70 percent more likely to throw an interception on the road over his career.
The secret, then, is to face the Saints and Brees on the road, which Lovie Smith was smart enough to do after the 2006 season, when his Bears played host to New Orleans in the NFL Championship and won 39-14, advancing to the Super Bowl. That's not an option Sunday, however.