But in taking down the Colts, the Saints became the 18th NFL franchise to capture a Super Bowl crown. That leaves 14 desperate title-less teams, of which four (Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston) have never even made it to the NFL's grandest stage.
So with an eye toward next season and beyond, we take a look at who could be next to break through.
Wait Till Next Year
Minnesota Vikings (4 Super Bowl appearances): Put the Vikings on this list with a bullet -- a 40-year-old bullet wearing Wranglers. If Brett Favre decides to come back for the 2010 season, Minnesota immediately jumps back near the top of the NFC pack. Without Favre, the Vikings will be left scrambling. Tarvaris Jackson isn't a Super Bowl-caliber QB.
Philadelphia Eagles (2 Super Bowl appearances): The Eagles are right up there with the Chargers (we'll get to them in a minute) when it comes to annual disappointments. Philly is the only team in the NFC East without a Super Bowl title -- something not lost on Eagle fans, no doubt -- and haven't been able to get back to the title game since losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. But, as is usually the case in the City of Brotherly Love, the Eagles will be one of the NFC's favorites again next season. What the Eagles do with Donovan McNabb could be a make-or-break decision.
San Diego Chargers (1 Super Bowl appearance): Has any Super Bowl trip so encapsulated the overall fortunes of a franchise like the Chargers' visit in 1994? After storming to an unexpected AFC title, San Diego -- 18 1/2-point underdogs in the final game -- imploded in a 49-26 loss to San Francisco. And that's been how things go in San Diego: play just well enough to get everyone excited, then flame out when it counts. This past season looked like the Chargers' best chance to head to the Super Bowl since that Super Bowl XXIX appearance, but they lost at home to the Jets. But with Philip Rivers, an explosive offense and a very winnable division, San Diego figures to be in the mix again in 2010.
Tennessee Titans (1 Super Bowl appearance): If you're surprised to see Tennessee included on the list of teams on the brink of breaking through, don't be. The Titans, despite a horrible start to the 2009 season, finished 8-8 and nearly made the playoffs. Better yet, with Vince Young now locked in at quarterback and all-world running back Chris Johnson, the Titans have the potential to be dynamic. They haven't won a playoff game since the 2003 season, but they will be capable of a run.
Hope for the Future
Arizona Cardinals (1 Super Bowl appearance): The runners-up two years ago and a group that's taken a very recent stranglehold on the NFC West. The Cardinals' hopes in 2010 -- and past that -- lie with Matt Leinart, who will be expected to step in at quarterback following Kurt Warner's retirement. And, quite frankly, it's hard to see Leinart taking this team to the top in his first year as a starter.
Atlanta Falcons (1 Super Bowl appearance): This is another team that you can't exactly count out in 2010, but when you talk about the teams that ought to be favored heading into next season, it's hard to leapfrog the Falcons to the top of the heap. That said, they do have their franchise quarterback, Matt Ryan, in place. And without a harsh string of injuries this season, could have competed. The biggest obstacle for Atlanta is that it plays in the same division as New Orleans -- and right now, the Falcons aren't on the same level as the Saints.
Cincinnati Bengals (2 Super Bowl appearances): You have to appreciate what Marvin Lewis has done in Cincinnati to make the Bengals competitive again. But are they a Super Bowl threat in 2010? It's honestly hard to see it, but the foundation in place there gives Cincinnati a role as a sleeper team next year and beyond. Carson Palmer's health is the beginning and end of the Bengals' shot.
Houston Texans (0 Super Bowl appearances): Out of this grouping of teams, the Texans might be closest to getting over the top. Matt Schaub was, eventually, rewarded for his outstanding 2009 with a Pro Bowl spot. In Andre Johnson, the Texans have arguably the best wide receiver -- and possibly best player -- in all the NFL. And Mario Williams helps anchor a defense that is growing by leaps and bounds. But can you expect a Super Bowl title from a team that's never been to the playoffs?
Jacksonville Jaguars (0 Super Bowl appearances): Jacksonville has some good things -- some really good things -- going for it. Namely Maurice Jones-Drew at running back, but this team is better than people realize. Commotion about where the Jags will play in the future, and a rising temperature on coach Jack Del Rio's seat, puts the distraction level high for Jacksonville, though. And it's hard to see David Garrard being the guy at QB for much longer. If we're talking about a team that could be the next Saints, then someone has to play the role of franchise savior like Drew Brees. Is there a better fit than Tim Tebow?
Don't Hold Your Breath
Buffalo Bills (4 Super Bowl appearances): Even now, it's mind-boggling to look back and think that the Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls. Just getting to four straight Super Bowls is an incredible accomplishment, but one that doesn't give much solace to Bills fans. Sadly for them, this team's got a ways to go.
Carolina Panthers (1 Super Bowl appearance): You could argue that Carolina's got hope to be decent in 2010 and no one would argue. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are a tremendous duo at running back (if they can stay healthy), but as with most teams that aren't considered Super Bowl threats, there is a lingering question mark at quarterback. Is Jake Delhomme going to get another shot? Will the Panthers keep Matt Moore around? Perhaps more importantly, can this team ascend to the top of the league with either? It's doubtful.
Cleveland Browns (0 Super Bowl appearances): The Browns did close the year strong under Eric Mangini. And bringing in Mike Holmgren as president almost ensures that the talent level on this roster will tick upward. Holmgren has substantial work to do, though, and finds himself and his team in a division with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, all three of which could be dangerous next season. There's a long road ahead.
Detroit Lions (0 Super Bowl appearances): Yeah, the Lions were better in 2009 than in 2008 -- but that's like saying the Prius you just bought is better than your old one because it didn't fly off the road when you tried to brake. Detroit's not only sitting on zero Super Bowl visits, but on one playoff victory period since the Super Bowl format took hold. Winning two games in 2009 was an improvement over the 0-16 debacle of 2008, and there is certainly more talent on this team now than a year ago. Still, without two or three more solid drafts strung together, Detroit won't be a contender anytime soon.
Seattle Seahawks (1 Super Bowl appearance): Seattle fans, among the league's rowdiest, might take exception with the Seahawks' inclusion down here. But let's face facts: The Seahawks just hired Pete Carroll, a guy who's yet to prove himself capable of consistently winning in the NFL. At quarterback, Carroll has to choose between a breaking-down Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace and Mike Teel -- meaning that Seattle probably needs to find a new QB in the not-too-distant future. And if left tackle Walter Jones retires, Seattle loses one of the greatest players of all time at one of the toughest positions to find a star. Could the Seahawks challenge in the NFC West next season? Absolutely. But that's it.