Are the Saints really a surprise?
Not to mention, add in a true home advantage and none of the chaos caused by arguably the nation's worst natural disaster the year before?
You get the 2006 Saints.
People have short memories. It's easy to remember the 2005 version of the Saints, the ones with Jim Haslett as coach, Aaron Brooks as quarterback and a new home in San Antonio because of all the damage wrought in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. It's a wonder, considering that terrible trio, that the Saints didn't go winless.
Let's go back to 2003 and 2004, when the Saints twice finished 8-8 and had Haslett on the hot seat because of their maddening inconsistency despite a solid nucleus of talent. New Orleans was generally considered a playoff contender but one that could never get over the hump.
But with the offseason additions of Sean Payton and Drew Brees, which in retrospect, seems to be such significant upgrades that no analogy can truly do them justice. (And, no, adding an undersized, glorified scatback who averages 3 yards a carry and has no rushing TDs, isn't that big of a factor).
That doesn't even take into account the magic generated within the Superdome these days ... it's probably the best home-field advantage in the NFL.
So, no, the Saints are no surprise. They're finally living up to expectations. There's no big mystery here.