With the NFL preseason getting started, it’s time for my Fearless Football Forecast of what the New Orleans Saints will do when the real games begin.

Some ESPN pundits are saying they won’t reach the playoffs due to the improvement of NFC South opponents, but this pundit begs to differ:

The season starts with a loss at Lambeau Field to the Super Bowl champion, Green Bay Packers.

But in the Superdome, the lads in black and gold emerge victorious over the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans.

A three-game road series results in wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, but a loss to division rivals Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Saints’ first home loss is to the high-flying Indianapolis Colts, with hometown boy Peyton Manning having a record-breaking day.

The team rallies for a road win over the St. Louis Rams, and obtains revenge at home by beating Tampa Bay.

But they drop a road game to the division-leading Atlanta Falcons to enter the bye week at a respectable 6-4.

A dramatic Monday night win over the New York Giants in the Dome is followed by another home victory over the Detroit Lions.

After vanquishing the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Saints are riding high — until the Minnesota Vikings knock them off in Minneapolis.

Division victories in the Dome over Atlanta (in a Monday night shootout) and struggling Carolina give the sainted ones a most excellent 11-5 mark for the season — but in the tough NFC South, that’s only good enough for a wild card berth.

Optimism runs high when the Saints win the first playoff game, getting revenge against the Vikings.

But then the team runs into the Eagles in chilly Philadelphia, and the birds are as hot as the weather is cold.

With that loss the season ends, but Saints fans are (mostly) happy with the 12-6 season and playoff victory.

Happy, but not content. …

Salty story

Marti Hutson, of Central, adds to our tales of anchovies:

“Shortly after I was married way back in 1969, my late husband told me to be sure and salt those little fishes on my Italian salad at Murphy’s in Hammond.

“Fortunately for me, I didn’t trust the twinkle in his eye.”

Creative recycling

Trish Sedlin says comments about “soup of the day” or soup du jour brings to mind the wine bar that serves “zuppa di ieri.”

“That translates from the Italian to ‘yesterday’s soup.’ ”

Sweet talk

Joe Glass thanks the folks at Reeves Supermarket for their diligence in keeping him informed about his favorite peach vanilla ice cream. When he was dismayed to find they were out, Wanda got his phone number and D.J. called to let him know when the treat was coming in, and again when it arrived.

History lesson

John LaCarna says this about a reader’s reminiscence of the 1976 Freedom Train:

“I’m old enough to remember the original Freedom Train that toured the country in the late ’40s when I was about 12.

“The engine was painted red, white and blue, and it pulled cars with documents and other artifacts of this country’s founding, including the original Declaration of Independence.

“In Baton Rouge, it was stationed near the Old State Capitol, and the line stretched to the new State Capitol.

“It took my parents and me at least a full four hours to reach the train. But needless to say, it was well worth it.”

Special People Dept.

• Lillie Courtade celebrated her 100th birthday Wednesday.

• Rae Montecino Romeo, of Landmark of Baton Rouge, celebrates her 96th birthday Thursday.

• On Wednesday Mary Boozer Jackson, of Lakewood Quarters, formerly of Moorhead, Miss., celebrated her 91st birthday.

• Bill and Thelma Bailey celebrate their 60th anniversary Thursday.

Thought for the Day

From Mel Prust: “Why is it that the loudest snorer is always the first one to go to sleep?”

Hazardous grade

Bayou Jeaux says, “The start of school and the continued debate about how to score students, i.e. ABCDF or other means, reminds me of a situation in the 1930s.

“I brought home a card with average scores except one, a D — probably in conduct.

“Not wanting to incur the wrath of my parents, I carefully took a pen and put a little dash in the ‘D,’ making it into a ‘B.’

“However, my scheme failed.

“My father said, ‘Son, next time use the same color ink.’ ”