My Fearless Football Forecast for the New Orleans Saints has become an annual tradition, despite protests from readers. Except for that one glorious Super Bowl year, the Saints have a way of breaking your heart. And this year is no exception.

I hope I’m wrong with this year’s prediction. And you can take comfort in the fact that I am almost always wrong...

For the birds

The Saints don’t get off to a great start, dropping their opening game of the regular season to the Arizona Cardinals on the road, as former LSU defensive stars Patrick Peterson and Tyrone Mathieu plague Drew Brees all game long.

Home sweet home

Back in the friendly confines of the Superdome, the hometown lads show improvement by knocking off division rivals Tampa Bay, holding off a Buccaneers drive in the last minute to cinch the win.

Sorry, Cam

On the road again, the Saints show they’ve figured out how to corral the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, notching their second division win in a row.

Upset city

The undefeated Dallas Cowboys are supposed to be Super Bowl material as they roll into the Dome for a Sunday night contest. But the Saints defense keeps Tony Romo bottled up and frustrated all evening, causing Jerry Jones to turn an interesting shade of red as he looks on.

Eagles landing

Alas, the rejoicing over the win over the Cowboys lasts only until the following Sunday afternoon, when the Philadelphia Eagles bring the visiting Saints back down to earth with an impressive victory.

Never on Thursday!

A dreaded Thursday night contest at home against the Atlanta Falcons could spell trouble for the tired Saints, but a last-second field goal saves the day and gives our guys another division victory.

Lucky Luck

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck wins his duel with Drew Brees in a home game for the Horses, with both passers tossing both TDs and interceptions.

Eli returns

A rare home loss for the Saints occurs the following Sunday, when New Orleans’ own Eli Manning leads the New York Giants to a hard-fought victory in the Dome.

Tattered Titans

The next home game has a much happier ending, as our lads in black and gold leave the visiting Tennessee Titans black and blue in what is their most complete game of the season.

Woeful Washington

The Saints go on the road to face the Washington Indigenous People, a team mired in a funk. The Saints pull off a surprisingly easy victory to head home for a bye week as winners.

At the break, the Sainted Ones are 6-4, with a 3-0 NFC South record, in the driver’s seat in their division.

Tough Texans

In Houston, the Saints struggle mightily with the Texans before finally winning a squeaker on a late field goal.

Cam’s revenge

The Texans’ game leaves the Saints wounded, and the Carolina Panthers come into the Dome and leave with a victory, as quarterback Cam Newton has one of his best games.

Bucs stop

On the road in Florida, the Saints have their way with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winning decisively despite being on the Bucs home field. And because the other NFC South teams have beaten each other up, the win cinches the division for the Saints.

Lions don’t roar

A Monday nighter in the Dome against the Detroit Lions allows New Orleans to showcase its offense, as Mark Ingram has his best game of the season. The win is a satisfying one for Saints fans, looking forward to the playoffs.

Jab the Jags

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the final victim to succumb to Dome Fever, as the Saints go ahead early and coast to their final regular-season home game victory.

Meaningless loss

Having already clinched their division, New Orleans has little to play for when they journey to Atlanta and face the Falcons. They rest some starters and wind up losing listless affair in which neither team seems to want to win.

What happened?

Saints faithful are sky-high as the 10-6 team and division champion prepares for a home game against the up-and-down Minnesota Vikings. All the experts are picking the Saints to roll — and all the experts are wrong.

For some reason, the black-and-gold can’t get it together, as the Vikes show an impressive ground game and stout defense.

It’s a bitter upset, but the Saints and their loyal supporters can take some comfort in a good season and a return to the playoffs after missing last year.

Contacting Smiley

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.